#183 In which our hero discusses a Thanksgiving that was memorable in its awkwardness. And fat content.
Finally, I have a moment to write a decent post, not the slap-dash, rambling messes that I’ve been posting lately. But don’t get used to it, the next several days will most likely be links to books I like or a recap of all the food I stuffed down my craw on turkey day.
So, Thanksgiving. I’ve been sitting here trying to remember an especially memorable Thanksgiving, but nothing is coming to mind. For my family, Thanksgiving was very much the Norman Rockwell norm: Mom made a big turkey, Dad carved it, and all the kids came home to eat it.
There’s no grandpa farted at the table story, or Mom burned the bird or anything like that, least none that I can remember. My memories are sitting around the table laughing and eating, then helping Mom clean up afterwards. Then calling dibs on the couch for a nap before Dad got there.
Things are different now, since my three older sisters and I all live in different states (my oldest sister actually lives in a different country) we rarely all get together. And we all have kids, so that makes it all the more challenging. The norm now is that Mom travels to one of our houses and spends the holiday there. This year, she’s heading up to Wisconsin to visit my youngest sister and her kids.
However, there is one Thanksgiving that comes to mind because I didn’t spend it with my family; rather I spent it with the family of a girl I was dating.
Now, this relationship was doomed from the start. Matter of fact, I remember telling a buddy two weeks into the relationship that it wasn’t going to work out. It’s shitty that I didn’t pull the plug earlier, I guess, but part of me really wanted it to work out. I think the major issue was that it accelerated way too fast. It just happened that this girl was graduating college a couple weeks after we first went out. Naturally she wanted me to come to the graduation, and then the graduation party at her parents house afterwards. So less than a fortnight in I was meeting the parents, and that is way, way too early to meet the parents.
But as I grew more indifferent to the relationship, she grew more committed. Bad combination. She invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with her family, and for some unknown reason I accepted. She so desperately wanted it to work out between us, and I hated the look on her face when I tried to pull back. So I went.
Two issues with what was otherwise a very nice dinner. First, I was asked to cook something. This has happened to me fairly often… someone hears that I like to cook, so they give me the opportunity to make something. I’m sure they’re just trying to be nice (and in this case I’m sure it was a let’s-get-to-know-you thing) but it always feels like I’m being asked to put on a performance. A man? Who likes to cook? This I must see for myself!
Worse yet, I had to cook in this girl’s mother’s kitchen, while she (the mother) was busy making the rest of the dinner. In other words, there’s no avoiding the fact that I was going to be in the way. I made cranberry-orange relish, which couldn’t be simpler. Cut up an orange, add a bag of fresh cranberries, some sugar and some orange juice and let it simmer on the stove for a bit. But, indeed, I was in the way while I sliced up my orange and searched around for the sugar. In the end, the family politely ate it, but it was clear that they were more the jellied out-of-the-can sort of cranberry eaters.
The second issue was the mashed potatoes. Now, I love mashed potatoes. Love, love, love. Especially with gravy, and especially with turkey gravy. When I’m huge and bloated with other food, I’ll still stuff down a little more mashed potatoes and gravy.
So I see this girl’s mom making mashed potatoes, and they’re from scratch, which is good -- instant mashed potatoes from a box are gross. But just as this ivory goodness is about to be placed into its designated bowl, she brings out a jar of mayonnaise and slops maybe two cups of mayo into the potatoes and mixes it up.
I’m sure I made a horrified face, because she assured me that the mayo would make the potatoes creamier. I’m a little grossed out now just thinking about it. But I ate some, and maybe it was my imagination, but I could taste the hint of mayonnaise, even under a healthy application of gravy. This is not the taste that should stick with you. Mayo is for ham sandwiches, not beautiful, innocent mashed potatoes.
The rest of the food was delicious, however. And I was introduced to mashed turnips, which I expected to be inedible, but turned out to be really quite tasty.
There was no escaping the fact that I was being eyed up as future son-in-law material, and that’s not where my head was at. So yeah, awkward. It should be noted that this girl’s parents were really very nice to me, and even got me some kick-ass Christmas presents. And what did I get them for Christmas? Nothing. It didn’t even cross my mind to buy them something, and I never expected them to buy something for me. I feel like a pretty big asshole to this day about that.
So tomorrow I will sit down to a delicious meal with my in-laws, who don’t have to evaluate me as potential son-in-law material, since that ship has already sailed. And I’ve helped produce two beautiful grandchildren, so I think I’m pretty well accepted.
Most importantly, I know the main ingredient in my mother-in-law's mashed potatoes is POTATOES.