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Basted youth

Thanksgiving is a holiday made from scratch

Photo: Alex Fine, License: N/A

Alex Fine

Like any food-obsessed type, my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. Hell, probably my favorite day is Thanksgiving. It always kicks off a long weekend, it’s secular, it’s not a blatant reminder that you’re a year closer to death and you don’t have to spend any money on pointless gifts. It’s all gluttony, sloth, that Charlie Brown special and football. A really good day off, distilled. True, the occasion sorta marks the beginning of the end for the original inhabitants of this country, but Koreans had nothing to do with that part. Just sayin’.

Transcending the mere sybaritic facets of the occasion, however, is the pleasure of cooking for your loved ones. And we’re not talking about your everyday, fix-your-significant-other-a-sandwich-type stuff. This is some serious shit. Because it’s annual, 
there’s pressure. If you screw up, there’s an entire year for your fam to be secretly disappointed in you before your next shot. The meal itself is a significant undertaking, of course: the sheer volume of food, the cooking space and timing issues that result from that, and the fact that the Thanksgiving turkey is almost certainly the biggest individual, um, food unit that most people will ever cook. And many of the dishes are somewhat Thanksgiving-specific, so you don’t get 
much practice.

If you manage to pull it off despite all that, you get to enjoy the rare, extra-sweet version of gratification that only such involved endeavors can precipitate. There’s the fuzzy warmth of feeding your family, sure, but a lot of it is that feeling of “I am the fucking MAN!” Perhaps my favorite Thanksgiving moment ever was the year that my very Christian uncle gave me a shout-out during grace, mentioning me by name right alongside the big man J.C. himself. So yeah, it’s a selfish pleasure too – I fully own up to that.

But what makes Thanksgiving even more super-special to me is not just that I get to be in charge, but that there is anything to be in charge of at all. My parents 
were the first of their respective families to settle here in the United States in the 1970s, so for many years, our family was just us, and my sister and I were the only kids. Most big gatherings or celebrations took place at their 
friends’ houses.

At that point, our holiday tradition was no tradition. My mom insists that she started making turkey one Thanksgiving, apparently in response to my being teased in elementary school about how weird I was for not having turkey on previous Thanksgivings. I’m assuming up til that point we’d been eating rice and kimchi and such. I have absolutely no memory of this, which is weird given how obsessed I was with “American” food. If anything, I guess it’s an indication that my mom’s turkey was at least good enough to not turn me against it; many of my friends who were obligated to choke down bland and dry birds in their youths can’t say the same. As one friend summed it up: “Fuck turkey – go sides!” It saddens me to think that turkey in its horribly disfigured cold-cut form is the paradigm for so many.

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