My friend and fellow blogger Keith Jennings recently published a fantastic Thanksgiving-themed post on which I was compelled to comment. His reflection on Thanksgiving casseroles made me think of how far I’ve come in the past few years. Between my family being scattered all over the place and my need to pack for vacation, I’m spending this Thanksgiving by myself… and for that I’m grateful!
Keith’s blog post discussed the ever-present Thanksgiving casserole, and its metaphorical connection to our family dynamics. It made me think back to the slimy green bean casserole that was ever present at my family’s tumultuous Turkey Day feasts. I’ve never been a fan of the sludge. One day my mother scolded me for not eating the casserole by stating “But it’s a family tradition!” I replied “Sure it is… so are fighting, judging, manipulating, and shaming.”
Only recently, I was asked to bring a side dish to dinner. I chose a nice seasoned sauteed asparagus. I was told that my choice was too boring, and I should make a nice casserole out of it with some cream soup and breadcrumbs – YUCK. My healthy dish was ruined.
Why is it that we often take something so purely and naturally perfect, like green beans or asparagus, and drown them in sauce? Or bake them until mushy? Or cover them with other things until they are unrecognizable? You see, to me that casserole represented everything that was wrong with Thanksgiving. Each member of my family is wonderful in his or her own right, without the all dramatic trimmings. I prefer my veggies naked and my family raw and fresh. It happened to work out that the Universe knew I needed to spend this Thanksgiving all alone… to meditate on the things that make me feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. That way I can fully prepare (and not just prepare food) for a wonderful visit with the family next month… casserole-free!
Our tendency is to go to one of two poles: 1) avoid conflict altogether or 2) stir it up.
To do #1 means to bring a casserole to the family Thanksgiving dinner. To do #2 is to bring vegetable lo mein just because it will piss people off. Both of these are easy and require no creativity or real effort (i.e. sweat, care, risk). Both of these are expected by family depending on your personality and behavioral history.
The real nakedness and risk lie in bringing a creative, unexpected dish that doesn’t compromise who you are and what you believe. And letting the others choose whether they’ll eat it or not.
It seems the traditional Thanksgiving feast is more about layering on enough blubber before the final harvest spoils so you can have a better chance of surviving the lean times until the spring thaw — though I’m certain I’d be happier with the asparagus the way you make it. Like with most family interactions, there seems to be a trade-off between short-term health and long-term survival….
I’m sorry I couldn’t make it back down to Georgia to be with any of my family (birth or choice) today, but too much was still too up-in-the-air for me to be able to plan. I’m thinking of you and yours today, and nearby in spirit.