There was that Thanksgiving the cat almost ate. The turkey was resting comfortably in the kitchen, minding its own business, awaiting its fate as everyone mingled in the living room. Even as their stomachs growled and their mouths drooled, the adults sipped "Mad Men" cocktails and my siblings and I hungrily anticipated digging into the meal that made us feel American, at least once a year. Its aromas had tortured us all day long.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash and a thud. My mother raced to the kitchen like a quarterback on crack. She slid into first base in the knick of time and grabbed the turkey out of Rocky’s mouth as he attempted to drag it across the floor without getting caught or anyone noticing. What house did this cat think he lived in?
Bursting at the seams and splattering apart at touchdown, the turkey probably weighed more than Rocky did. Like Humpty Dumpty, my mom put that turkey back together again. None of the guests were the wiser when she brought it to the table to be carved and served as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. My father’s chainsaw massacre with the electric knife was a second-rate performance compared to my mother’s dexterity and her magical cut and paste job. She had twine. And a big needle.
There was that Thanksgiving in Paris in the Chinese restaurant. With the exception of my friend Gary, I celebrated with a group of complete strangers. We had soup, Singapore noodles, chicken, pork, shrimp, and lots of greens, oysters, lobster and squid. No mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce or stuffing in sight. The closest thing to dark meat came from the crispy duck. Every time somebody wanted mustard, we deferred to Gary, whose claim to fame came from being the actor who had said, “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?”
The dinner was memorable, even if the dessert was not. As much as I dislike pumpkin pie, I’ll take that any day over lychee nuts in heavy syrup. Lychees are soft and nowhere near as nuts as some of my Thanksgivings before or after have been.
How can a nut not be crunchy?
There was that Thanksgiving with Obama. Any questions?
There was that horrid Thanksgiving where, against our better judgment, we allowed our friend Jerry to coerce us into
eating cooking a dinner that is probably still hiding in parts of my colon as part of the "Whiteness Protection Program". It’s also on the FBI’s "10 Least Wanted List". There was absolutely no color or taste to any of the food that he prepared. Unfortunately, there was also no pet to feed it to. If old Rocky had been alive, he probably would have run away to the Humane Society claiming abuse and won a judgment. It was that inedible. My friend Lisa and I joked for years that nobody dreams of a “White Thanksgiving”. I know I don’t. Once is more than enough.
There was that Thanksgiving more than 20 year ago where I was visiting my mom and we decided we would go out to dinner, reasoning that it was not worth all the trouble to prepare our own since it was just the two of us. For some reason, we decided that having all this free time on our hands without any performance anxiety could best be spent rearranging the furniture in her condo. Pulling a Persian rug out from underneath an entertainment center, massive leather sofas, love seats and a coffee table is not nearly as rewarding as enjoying the fruits of your labor, as long as they’re not lychees. The only leftovers you get are a sore back. We ended up making a Hungarian dish containing potatoes, kielbasa, sour cream and hardboiled eggs that was long ago renamed “Rumpelstiltskin” (don’t ask) and added beets to it to give it autumn color. No “White Thanksgiving” for us.
This year, I have accepted the challenge to cook at a friend’s home. Some of the guests are people I have never met. In a nod to some of my odd Thanksgivings past, along with the traditional turkey and sides, I’m preparing curried butternut squash soup, a fennel and arugula salad with tri-colored beets in a grapefruit/clementine dressing and Szechuan green beans. I’m hauling some of my own tools and equipment down south to do the job, including the chainsaw massacre carving knife I grew up fearing. I may need it.
My friend owns a cat and said cat has her own place at the dinner table. Seriously.
Somebody, please pass me the Grey Poupon.