24 November 2004

Lah de dah, lah de dah

When we lived in New York, we always joined Matt's family for holiday celebrations, which was pretty great as far as I was concerned. His mother and step-dad are both funny, intelligent, interesting people who travel a lot, collect quirky art, cook terrific and abundant meals, and stock cases of excellent red wine in the basement.

At the time, Matt was always pretty reluctant to attend the festivities, not because he didn't like the people involved, but because he can be a royal crank about the holidays. I can see where he's coming from, since he's adamantly not Christian, in fact was brought up in a non-religious home by erstwhile Catholics and secular Jews, and he can't stand the obligatory gift-giving and hallmark-card religion and mandatory cheer of it all.

Me, I was brought up among seriously lefty-liberal Episcopalians who celebrated Christmas with multi-culti creches and sign-language hymns and Native American origin myths told as sermons. And oh yeah, lots of dry sherry.

But how did I get rambling about Christmas? This is about Thanksgiving, which is about food and friends and football. Apparently.

Right: the contrast between my family and Matt's. Thanksgiving at my house was a pretty big deal, since we're direct descendants of some famous Pilgrims or four, so we always felt pretty proprietary about the holiday. However, that smug sense of self didn't stop us from celebrating with all the culinary flair of kids at a mudcake contest.

I know, I know -- I'm a snob. About food, I am. I cooked professionally for years until very recently, I went to a fancy private New England college and they filled my head with crazy snooty ideas above my station, but I maintain that mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving shouldn't be of the "just add water" variety. Vegetables shouldn't be "boil-in-the-bag." And wine shouldn't have a grocery store sticker that says "2.99" on it. And wine should certainly not be pink.

I mean honestly. To this day, my oldest brother distrusts cranberry sauce unless it is in the shape of a can.

So, the first year we moved back here, I brought Matt to the ancestral crumbling Victorian for Thanksgiving dinner, and he was duly horrified. We started making plans right then for future Thanksgivings, trying to figure out how to be out of the country in late November every year from now on. Then I realized that we were all grownzed up now, we could take a stand and do what we wanted. So I invited the fam out last year for Thanksgiving. To a restaurant of my choice. My treat.

Yeah, the food was a tad too fancy for their tastes, but they are generally tolerant of my high-falutin' airs (I'm the youngest, and the only girl, you know how it is) so they all ordered the turkey dinner and I ordered the duck and we sat in a beautiful dining room overlooking the ocean and toasted each other repeatedly and it was very civilized and convivial and lovely. Mom was relieved to not have to clean the house and do all that shopping, since she's busier than ever saving the world these days, and my brothers always like a free meal. Oh, and my other brother is a professional cook, too, to be fair, so I know he grooved on the truffle-scented mashed potatoes.

This year, tomorrow, we're going back to the same delightful restaurant, my brother's new wife is joining us, and my mother even offered to pay. I am happy and pleased and gratified, but I know it won't last. As soon as one of us produces a grandchild (!) -- and two of us three siblings are married already -- the party may well be over. Trade in your sangiovese for your sippy cups.

So although I love children and want at least one of my own... someday... tonight I am thankful for quiet evenings with book and cat, good food with my wonderful family, and a cocktail with an ocean view. Also for Mom picking up the tab this year. And no food should be shaped like a can.

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