Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

How to Get Through Thanksgiving Without Overly Gendering Everything

It’s one thing to recognize I’ve reached adulthood, but it’s quite another to be able to look back over many, many years and see that the threshold was crossed quite a long time ago. I’ve now got under my belt a large swath of experiences that have pointed in the direction of today. When it comes to Thanksgiving, I’ve learned to perfect my turkey preparation, just one of many aspects to the day that are now part and parcel of the holiday for me.

I’ve also gotten attached to a certain table setting for Thanksgiving, and to having the Macy’s Day Parade on in the background as I cook, which let me just say really sucks for people in the Pacific Time Zone. For those of us who grow up with Thanksgiving through our childhood and into adulthood, we have expectations around something that happens in that day. Eating the crappy green bean casserole, or at least having it on the table, arguing about who sits where, making a particular holiday cookie, there’s always something.

Also in my personal history is the need to dress up. It’s a formalish dinner, with the special china laid out and the polished silver on the fancy schmancy tablecloth. Mom would even enlist me in ironing the napkins, which of course I hated but which of course she hated worse. Which is why the job fell on me. (Remind me sometime to tell you about the enormous Jabba the Hut pile of ironing in the downstairs laundry.)

Now then, dress up often meant dress, which by the time I’d reached adolescence was more often a clean sweater and khakis, but my point, as obtuse as I’ve made it, is this: Thanksgiving is a gendered experience. Who sits on the couch, yelling at the football game, and who is in the kitchen prepping the meal. Who does the dishes afterward, who carves the turkey, there are many moments throughout the day that tell us something about gender roles and expectations.

Now that Emile is more aware of his surroundings and the relationships of the adults around him, it’s occurred to me that there are things I can do–as the adult that I am now–to help dial down some of the more sexist traditions that my culture has handed to me. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but maybe if we can make it through the next 15 Thanksgivings with less emphasis on sexist ideology, we’ll have made a small difference in the experience for our family and friends. Some of the ideas that come to mind are: Read More…

Dinner of champions

I was finishing preparations for the big Thanksgiving meal when my cell phone rang, and I saw on the screen that it was one of my closest friends. So of course I answered it.

“Have I got news for you,” she said.

My mind immediately computed all of the possibilities it could find in the 0.02 seconds before I began responding to her statement, which included, in approximate order, the following:

someone was pregnant

someone was pregnant with an alien fetus

I’m behind in watching V episodes

wow, DVR has changed my life

I’m sad Monk is ending

“What’s your news,” I asked innocently.

“Those people who crashed the White House party,” she said, in a hushed tone, “those were the people who own Oasis wine where I got married.” She spat out the last six words so quickly I needed an extra moment to parse them out and find the spaces between them. And then the memory section of my brain filled in everything I needed to recall about the Oasis Vineyard in Virginia. As it happens, there is not much good in those memory stores. A Hummer outfitted with the Oasis logo that camps out at the annual Vintage Virginia wine festival, with “club” members that are condescending toward everyone else. Stories from old coworkers about visiting the vineyard only to be snubbed as “too local” or not wealthy-looking enough to get decent service. When my friend told me she was looking at wedding venues and that those included Oasis, I told her I’d never heard anything good about the place. They took that under advisement but booked there anyway. It sounded so easy—they had caterers on hand, knew several good florists, and would cordon off the premises just for their event. Once the contract was signed, it was a different story. The events manager wouldn’t let them talk to any of the vendors directly, kept changing things that they’d requested, opting, for example, for the most expensive flowers the florist listed, so that my friends had to redo the order at the last minute, and worst, started billing charges to their credit cards without telling them what any of the charges were for. When the third $1,500 charge showed up on their statement, they had the account number changed. The next charge the vineyard tried to put through failed. They had a screaming phone message waiting for them when they got home from work. The whole thing reeked of some kind of badly orchestrated con game, and though the wedding went on as scheduled, they’re still paying off the credit card debt and are left with sour memories infecting what was otherwise a wonderful October afternoon.

So I wasn’t surprised to hear that these people had crashed the White House party. Not surprised in the least. They were probably wearing clothes paid for by fiancees all over the DC Metropolitan area. Without spending much energy on why they’d do such a thing, I’ll write them off as narcissistic or sick. The incident with my friends was only one example of the many people who have sued them over the years for breach of contract and so forth.

What really bothers me about this trespass into the White House is that it happened at all. You can show up without an invitation, without being on the list, and get past the Secret Service? Really? Aren’t they trained for like, spies and crap? How could anyone simply smooth talk their way into the room?

“I hope they get arrested,” said my friend.

“Sheesh, I hope so too,” I said, pulling the turkey out of the oven. “We can’t have people think they can just break security like that.”

“I know! Isn’t that nuts?”

“I guess you’ve never bought anymore of their wine, huh, even though you got a lifetime 20 percent discount for having your wedding there?”

“Guess what,” she said, sounding somewhere between bitter and smiling, “I’m never buying their wine again. Besides, they’re selling the winery, so I don’t think anyone will honor that agreement anyway.”

“Well, Happy Thanksgiving!”

“Happy Thanksgiving to you, Ev,” she said, and I turned back to the bird, which I had named Norbert.

It’s okay not to be wealthy, of course, especially if it means your soul is intact.

New developments from the media say that Michaela and Tariq Salahi, the crashers in question, are now seeking a high-paying interview with whoever winds up top bidder. They misunderstand how broadcast journalism works, then. Reputable media sources don’t pay people to be interviewed. What they really need to do is find a ghostwriter to come up with a book like, “My Crazy Pictures with Famous People,” and then they can get a book deal from some crazy publisher out there, like whoever was going to print OJ’s fakeish confessional, or the folks who printed The Turner Diaries. Of course, they won’t be able to make any money bragging about their trespassing if the Federal Government decides to prosecute them.

So for the sake of all of us who want absolutely no more primetime on the Salahis, or the balloon boy’s parents, or Jon and Kate, or the freaking Duggers, PLEASE, I beg of you, oh Federal Government. Arrest them.

As quietly as you can.

What a waste it is to lose one’s mind

My surgery has been postponed indefinitely because there isn’t currently any donor tissue to use to reconstruct my ACL. In a weird twist to my attempts to “buy local,” I seem to be subject to an inaccessibility of allograft material, which is a localized issue. Apparently if we were still living in DC I would have had the surgery by now.

But not having the surgery just yet provides some unexpected benefits, like I’ve trimmed our Christmas tree, we can go ahead with a cookie exchange party, which will help us meet some new people, and I got to go to the annual holiday farmer’s market (the regular weekly market closed at the end of October and won’t reopen until April).

Still, it’s strange to think that I’m waiting, basically, for someone to pass away not so I can have their heart, but so I can go bowling again. It’s strangely offensive, or trite, or . . . something distasteful. That said, it is the best surgical option for me. And as I myself am an organ donor, I suppose I may pass something on, too. I just don’t have a response for people who try to make jokes about all of this (except maybe for the “buy local” one). Organ donation just isn’t funny. I mean, it’s kind of ridiculously unfunny.

So in the meantime, I bake. Baking, as we all know, sure can be funny. For Thanksgiving, I produced an apple pie, about two and a half dozen sweet potato biscuits, and a pumpkin swirl cheesecake. Thanks to my Mom, James Turner, and Junior’s bakery in Brooklyn, respectively, for the recipes.


Pumpkin swirl cheesecake

Pumpkin swirl cheesecake

The cheesecake, it should be noted, was not made without some trauma to me and the people in the room whilst it was being prepared. I was making the cake with my almost 12-year-old niece, Beth, when I was showing her my trick for cracking eggs. She asked, rightly so, if I wanted her to break the egg into the bowl or into something else, then putting that into the bowl. Because my egg-cracking tip minimizes the chance that broken shell will get into the recipe, I said it was fine to break it into the bowl.

Bad idea, Everett. Bad, bad idea. For while my 38 years of experience with store-bought eggs has so far produced wonderful incredible edibleness, this was about to go off the rails for me. She cracked and cracked the egg, and said, “it won’t open.” I took the egg from her, and in the nanosecond before I released the yolk, I saw the problem.

Humans, however, need something more than a nanosecond for their reflexes to kick in. I could only manage a slow-motion, “noooooooooo,” as I dropped it into $8 worth of cream cheese, vanilla, and whipping cream.

It was blood red. Worse, it had a half-inch large dead baby chick in it. And the redness of it against the pure white cream cheese mix made it only look more incredibly disgusting.

Suddenly there were people all crowding around the bowl trying to get a glimpse of the grotesque concoction. Kind of like when someone tastes something spoiled and screams and then begs you to taste it, too. Or like eating lunch in the Social Security Administration cafeteria. Kind of like that.

Susanne’s older brother, true to older brother form, suggested we just dump out the egg and continue on with the cake making. We did not of course, listen to him. This was made easier because of precedent–we are in the habit of not listening to his crazy man ideas. Instead I took a drive 12 miles to the grocery store and got more cream cheese, which was conveniently on sale. Then I wondered if the grocery store had some conspiracy to screw up people’s cheesecakes with fertilized chicken eggs so we would have to double our purchases of the cream cheese. Now that the Republicans are out of the White House, what will we do for conspiracy theories? Egg producers may take a lot of heat. 

This brings me to the mind-losing portion of this post. I was planning on the knee surgery on December 3, but lo and behold, as it is postponed indefinitely, I now have no calendar for anything — not rehab, not getting a job, not bowling — and so my sanity has begun to trickle away. Dear readers, hopefully it will not adversely affect this poor little blog too badly.

In the meantime, I snapped this apple pie picture shortly before the pie was no more. Enjoy.


Almost gone apple pie

Almost gone apple pie



Next up: Santa comes to Walla Walla.

On the road again

So we’re on our way to Michigan for the Thanksgiving holiday, which means we have to:

Drive through 80 miles of scrubland

Venture all too near the Bad Broccoli Paper Mill

Hack through the underbrush with worn machetes

Use the force to convince otherwise insistent State Troopers that no, they do not want to give us a ticket

Venture dangerously over the dotted middle line to pass slow moving trucks carrying evil potato missiles that threaten to launch themselves at our windshield, which hurtling around the curving Interstate 84 as we drive parallel to the Columbia River

Okay, only some of those things happened. But those potatoes looked menacing. They were from Oregon, so they had something to prove to the potatoes from Idaho. It’s a potato thing, you wouldn’t understand.

The drive was beautiful, with intermittent cirrus clouds drawn wispily across the sky. About an hour west-southwest of Walla Walla we first spotted Mt. Hood, all white-cloaked and almost invisible in the haze. In 38 years on planet Earth, I have never seen anything that tall that still had it’s feet on the ground. The Columbia glimmered back at us, sometimes higher than the road we were on, sometimes choppy with waves pushed by a strong wind, sometimes calm, almost looking like polished metal. I had wondered if the scrub brush and tumbleweeds would slowly give way to what I thought the Pacific Northwest more typically looked like, but I was sorely mistaken. It was like spring in upstate New York — blink and winter’s gone, replaced by tulips and greening lawns. It was just like that — we were in the desert, and in the space on 10 miles, it seemed, we were surrounded by tall conifers and nearly-bare trees, the fading colors of their leaves scattered on the ground like a carpet.

We drove past a few dams, a waterfall that didn’t send its stream all the way down, as if it was too tired to do so, and made our way into Portland, which after spending only a few hours there, seemed like a mix of Seattle style and Baltimore pacing, with several upscale areas to set it apart as its own space. 

Powell’s City Block of Books was pretty amazing: fewer books on five floors than one would think were actually there, but very well organized, unlike the stacks at the Strand in NYC. I am still getting used to the nonverbal nature of Northwesterners. If they’re in your way, do not say, “excuse me.” Lighting oneself on fire would probably be preferable to them. No, you should just stand there, breathing lightly, so as not to take any air they had expected would fill their own lungs. They will move when they see fit. To their credit, most of them give way after 10 second or so. What, are you in a hurry? Tsk tsk, must be from the East Coast.

Susanne went wild in the store, in her calm and intellectual way, of course. Many books piled into the cart, almost as if by magic. Most of them were for school use, but we did walk out with a cookbook on making meals from one’s local farmer’s market (it follows the seasons in a way that seems helpful), the new book by Toni Morrison, and a true crime tome from Ann Rule (I’m kind of addicted to the things).

We stopped next at the highly recommended Burgerville, and I hadn’t realized it was a local fast food chain. It seemed styled in the 1980s, yet was attempting to be retro to the 1950s, so it was kind of a plastic-y, neonized atmosphere, but with a glowing jukebox pumping out Oh Donna. Strange. The burgers were good for fast food, certainly beating out the Ice Burg in W2, but still not quite as good as the bison burger in town. The black forest milkshake however, well that was rather like heaven in a 12 ounce disposable cup. If heaven ever deigned to occur in such a circumstance.

We are now camped out near the airport so we can get on our very early flight tomorrow morning. Because remember, leaving Walla Walla is like walking to England with 20 pound weights strapped to your ankles. There’s a whole lot of ocean in the middle. We will leave at 7 tomorrow morning and touch down in Michigan at 4 in the afternoon, having practically seen no daylight. But there’s a turkey at the end of our tunnel.

Have a great holiday, everyone.

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