Although I am an American girl, I can honestly say I've never experienced a traditional American Thanksgiving. In my family there is no such thing as pumpkin pie. Giblets are a suburban myth. Stuffing belongs inside a teddy bear, not a turkey, and cranberries dance across our holiday table in a quivering ring my Grandma calls a "jelly mold." From our cornucopia spills a Jewish bounty of chopped liver, kasha varnishkes, brisket and cholent (that's my Grampa's legacy of beef, lima beans, potatoes, barley, garlic and schmaltz). Don't bother looking for recipes; They're all variations on a theme of meat, starch and fat. No fiber, no veggies. These foods were the building blocks of my culture. Literally: I think they used leftovers as bricks and spackle in the old country.
One such meal is manageable, but after a couple days we're all suffering from... sort of a trade imbalance, if you will. Not to mention this stuff really fills your gas tank. The long ride home, uh, passed as it always does: argue, argue, gossip, argue -- “Alright, who did it?” -- bicker, complain, insult, chuckle -- “Damnit! Again?" -- joke, bicker, punchbuggy -- "Jesus Christ, open the goddamned window!” -- and finally a tripping, clawing race from the garage to my parents' downstairs bathroom. I promised not to point the finger at anyone in particular, but I will say this: I'll think twice before I bully a certain sibling of mine into the middle seat -- the one farthest from the window -- for another lengthy car ride. Payback is a bitch.
Every year I make this trip, and every year I moan that it's a pain in the ass with the driving and schlepping and missing a day of work. But I wouldn't skip it, not for all the stuffing in the world. After a few days of loving squabbles and gastrointestinal distress with the 15 crazy New Yorkers collectively known as "The Cousins," I leave with my gut heavy and my heart light, and I feel restored. Traditional Thanksgiving I can take or leave, but I'm definitely thankful for tradition.