In America, today is Thanksgiving. In the rest of the world, today is Thursday. THURSDAY! An ordinary, little Thursday.
I mourn the fact that today I’m part of the rest of the world’s Thursday, and I’m missing out on family, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and American football. If you’re American you know what I mean. This is OUR special holiday. This is one of the BEST days of the year — feasts, family, fun, football and the Macy’s Day Parade that officially marks the beginning of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is a great celebration — right now there are literally thousands of Americans in their kitchens, across the nation, prepping their birds, baking their pumpkin pies and trying to figure out how the hell to cook a Thanksgiving dinner so that everything is ready to eat at the SAME TIME. Ridiculous! Beautiful! The ultimate kitchen challenge, requiring days — if not weeks — of preparation. Fresh or frozen turkey? To brine or not to brine? To stuff or not to stuff? Canned cranberry or homemade? Oh, the delicious horror of serving up such a significant meal in America.
Living outside of America, I would say there’s A LOT of mystery surrounding Thanksgiving. Certainly, everyone agrees that gathering together in gratitude on one special day of the year is a great idea. Cool, let’s try this holiday! But beyond that, it seems the details and dilemmas of Thanksgiving are up for interpretation — sometimes with humorous results. Here in Singapore, a friend from Mumbai invited us to Thanksgiving dinner with her friends from India. We were excited to experience their interpretation of Thanksgiving and to contribute some authentic American Thanksgiving dishes like stuffing and mashed potatoes. However, upon learning that the AMERICANS had been invited, our gracious hosts were so gripped with fear of messing up Thanksgiving dinner that the whole evening was CANCELLED. Too much pressure! We were disappointed, until we heard they had planned to roast a CHICKEN.
Tonight, we just returned home from dinner and cocktails with an American friend, during which we debated the nuances of roasting a TURKEY. To a foreigner, I’m sure we were speaking gibberish. If you did not grow up experiencing Thanksgiving, would you know that deep frying a turkey is a viable, fast, and tasty (yet significantly more dangerous) alternative to roasting? If I asked you WHERE you cook your stuffing, would you have any idea what I’m talking about? Or if I asked you how you feel about SAGE, would you understand the importance of that question? Or how about the CRITICAL issue of LEFTOVERS… do I need to explain that?
Tomorrow night (Friday) we’re invited to dinner in the spirit of Thanksgiving. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving I offered to bring stuffing and discussed my stuffing with the lovely Swedish host. She was thrilled at the prospect of me bringing stuffing because she’s never had stuffing. NEVER HAD STUFFING. I can’t even believe I just typed that. NEVER HAD STUFFING. Well, welcome to the joys of Thanksgiving in America. To hell with that Paleo diet. WE ARE HAVING STUFFING.
Thanksgiving dinner has several compulsory elements: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, STUFFING, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie… then maybe some additional side dishes like green beans, maybe Brussels sprouts, maybe dinner rolls or YAMS. WITH MARSHMALLOWS. Who came up with THAT dish? No idea, but each family has their own magic formula, their own delectable recipes that make Thanksgiving uniquely their own, yet universally accepted. It’s just not the same without Betty’s beans or Susan’s Jell-O salads, because that’s what we grew up with and that’s what makes Thanksgiving special. (Hi Susan! I miss your salads. And of course, mom, I miss you too and your amazing Thanksgiving dinners!)
All in all, we Americans definitely have our prejudices about what Thanksgiving does and doesn’t include. But the best part is that those prejudices pretty much only pertain to food. Aside from that, Thanksgiving is about family, friends, including people in your life and spending time together no matter where you are in the world. The more people you have at the table, the BETTER your Thanksgiving will be. Sometimes you’re the host and sometimes you’re the guest, and both roles are equally important and equally enjoyable. All you have to do is say YES, from one perspective or the other, and indulge in creating your own Thanksgiving — the most important Thursday of the year.
So Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for an excellent Thursday to celebrate LIFE and everything there is to be thankful for.