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Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving: Part 2

December 26, 2017

Here is the second post in my series about Thanksgiving (Yes, I know it’s now past Christmas, but things have been hectic.)


As the saying goes, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” Never is this more abundantly apparent than on Thanksgiving- or any other major holiday for that matter. In our family, we have hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the last 4 or 5 years or so and while my wife and I have enjoyed hosting, it does give some interesting perspective on things.

First, the whole process of hosting starts well before that Thursday. Namely, there is the annual shopping trip to the grocery store to buy all the ingredients and food that is going to be served. Conversations need to be had to determine the exact menu and who will be cooking what casseroles, etc. Then an accurate headcount is needed to know how big of a turkey we should buy to ensure there is enough food for the traditional meal as well as the all-important leftovers.

In our family, this is usually where the confusion starts. “So exactly how many people will you be bringing to dinner?” I ask my sister.

“Well, that depends. We could have as many as 4 extra or they may not come at all. I’ll let you know soon though.”

Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but it does make a difference in terms of planning when I have to figure out if we need chairs and table space for 13 or perhaps up to 17 people. Then I start asking my wife about how many of her family are planning on attending. This leads to another whole conversation.

“So my brother and his family are coming. Actually, just his family since he has to work, but his wife and kids will be here. And my mom and dad and my other brother will be here as well- so that makes 6 from my side.”

Okay, so the attendance situation is mostly figured out. Now back to the menu. Since my wife is from Ethiopia, we can’t get by on just making the traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing and deserts. No, in addition to all the American fare, we also have to have traditional Ethiopian dishes available as well. This itself is another whole process.

Luckily, I have been deemed unfit to cook any Ethiopian food by both my wife and mother-in-law. However, this does mean that starting a few days before Thanksgiving, my kitchen will be taken over so that they can start preparing their favorite Ethiopian cuisines. Did I say kitchen? I also meant my garage- since while my wife loves to make her ethnic food, apparently some of it is too pungent to cook in the house. So I get the additional job of setting up an electric burner in the garage so they can work their culinary magic.

So finally, the big day actually arrives. My dad, who came down a few days early and is staying with us, gets up around 6 AM and plants himself in front of the television. I get up at a more reasonable 8 AM to start preparing the turkey for cooking. My dad, politely offers to help. I flatly refuse. Mostly this is because his idea of cooking is that anything can be cooked and should be cooked using the microwave.

“Can’t you just put the turkey in the microwave on high for about an hour?” he asks.

“Um… no, I don’t think so.” I reply.

Now with everything prepared and as “ready” as it can be before family starts arriving, it’s the waiting game. And then finally, after what seems like eons, the doorbell rings and family and friends start to arrive. Time to kick things into high gear.

We start mashing the potatoes, finish cooking the stuffing and warm up the gravy. Then with a little fanfare and flourish, all the food is set out in serving dishes on the tables.  Having won the plastic vs. real plates battle this year with my wife, we set out the “real” plates in a stack and heap the forks and knives into a pile next to them. Then after the Thanksgiving blessing has been said. It’s finally time to eat.

In our family, the order always starts with the oldest male. After that, it’s a toss-up between next eldest male or women with young children that need plates made up for them. Either way, I usually end up somewhere in the middle of the pack. I slowly make my way around the tables, taking reasonable sized portions of most the food laid out. I do admit that I often skip some of the Ethiopian dishes because they rarely agree with my stomach but I make an effort to get a representative sampling of both cultures’ cuisine.

Then when everyone finally finds a seat and most of the children are safely regulated to the kid’s table, the conversations begin. If your family is anything like mine, this is when things begin to get really interesting. So interesting in fact, that I’ll decided to include that part of Thanksgiving in a future post. Until then, I hope each and every one of you had a great Christmas and have a safe and Happy New Year!

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