By Scarlette Quille
The typical holiday has a specific historic event or religious significance tied to it. Christmas has Jesus’ birthday, the Fourth of July has the American declaration of independence, and so on. As Americans we celebrate holidays because we have the day off work, and it’s on the calendar. Even those of us who are not significantly religious or festive find ourselves caught up in the “holiday spirit”, participating out of habit and societal expectation. Thanksgiving affords us the opportunity to be grateful for the day off and the chance to drown our sorrows in gravy without the shame and guilt typically associated with mass consumption.
When I was a kid in school, we had a Thanksgiving celebration and dressed as pilgrims and Indians, and had a mock feast. I cringe at the memory of my 6-year-old self stuffing my face with pie while wearing a construction paper headdress. My kids have never had a school celebration like this, and I am grateful. My kids will associate the holiday with shitloads of food, football and taking time off of school to spend with family. They are grateful for this. Gratitude is worthy of its own holiday. Learning to be grateful is something universal and tangible. Taking a day off from your regular schedule to wear elastic waist pants and eat your weight in mashed potatoes seems like a logical way to celebrate how blessed we are.
Food is a big part of every holiday — you won’t see me complaining about that. The part I don’t understand is why the resurrection of ancient recipes goes along with holiday celebration. Does anyone eat green been casserole or stuffing on a regular basis? What about marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes? Aren’t they already sweet? How about that weird Jello mold that makes an appearance with cottage cheese and pineapple in it? Do we put these things out on the table expecting them to be consumed? Is it a decoration? Is it a sacrifice to the gods? Are the cranberry-flavored concoctions served merely as a reminder to be grateful that they only appear once a year? I have so many questions.
Pumpkin pie, a delicious food that usually appears only around Thanksgiving, has somehow made its way into the mainstream. They call it “pumpkin spice,” and the marketing people throw it around this time of year like dollars at a strip club, adding it to coffee, candles, chocolate — whatever they can think of. It’s blasphemy, if you ask me. Pumpkin-flavored shit should appear once a year in November, and no one needs to drink it in milkshake form in August.
I feel the same way about turkey. There is way too much pageantry around cooking a turkey. I am grateful I have never been trusted to cook a turkey, or any feast for that matter, for a large group of people. That’s because I do not have the domestic skill or determination to stick my hand into a dead animal carcass and remove its entrails while simultaneously making pie and spreading holiday cheer. I am not sure how long it takes to master that skill, but my mother can pull it off while looking flawless. Personally, I can’t even look at an unwrapped turkey with out imagining its origin in some warehouse with a pile of the disgusting purple chin wobbles lying on the butcher-room floor.
I do recognize that it is important to bring something with you to holiday gatherings. Those of you who do not cook will understand the anxiety of not knowing what to bring. It is equal parts rude and entertaining to bring bad food to a gathering knowing people will pretend to eat and enjoy it. I have quit trying to make a passable dish and just bring booze. Most people appreciate a good buzz during holiday gatherings. For those who don’t drink, I can’t even imagine how you navigate your way through forced togetherness, awkward conversation and participation in nonsensical tradition regardless of personal beliefs. I am grateful that my mother cooks and drinks. She’s really the perfect woman.
For that matter, I’m grateful for a family that invites, accepts and welcomes me during the holidays, even if I never seem to truly grasp the concept. With that, I would like to thank you all for reading my column, and I hope you spent last weekend in sweat pants eating turkey leftovers avoiding the Black Friday traffic.
Happy post-Thanksgiving, Sandpoint.
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