My family is pretty small, so they never want to prepare a full, traditional Thanksgiving. Instead, they prefer to go to the HomeGrown Buffet* (*name changed to protect the innocent), wait in the cold for 45 minutes to get a table, and feast amongst the other dregs of society.
Now before you crucify me, let me tell you that I typically like buffets. Sure, the food has been sitting out for a while and some little kid stuck his booger finger in the mac & cheese, but what the hell do you expect for $5.95 a head? But even with my general thriftiness, it somehow seems sacrilegious to go to a buffet on Thanksgiving (especially the HomeGrown Buffet, which is the “Motel 6 Express” equivalent of food service).
Years ago, I begged my mom to let me cook dinner and she got worried that I would burn the house down. Rather than argue, my cousin and I split the cost of one of those pre-made Thanksgiving dinners from the local grocery store. I was quite pleased with the relative ease and inexpensiveness of the meal, but my mother was extremely unhappy.
“Dese yams are sh*tty,” she said, as she took another bite of the creamed orange goo. “So, mom, next year we won’t buy them.”“Screw it, I vant to go back to da buffet. I like hafing a variety of foods.”
I don’t think “variety” is the right word. My mom likes to eat the same food every single time, but they like the idea of having an endless supply of it to “play with”. Mom typically gets a piece of broiled fish that she mashed into a pile of powdered mashed potatoes, beets, corn, and chicken gravy. I think she likes making this concoction more than she likes to eat it, because she usually swirls it around for a while, talks to my aunt, swirls it some more, and then throws it out because it’s cold. This usually happens four or five times.Nagymama also really likes the idea of multiple servings…of cake, more cake, and nothing but the cake. My mom and aunt try to feed her some meat and potatoes, but she usually just stuffs the drumsticks in her purse and reaches for the carrot cake. She usually grabs a piece for herself, realizes that we don’t have any cake, so she places it in front of us, yells at us to eat it, and runs back up to the buffet as if they were running out of the stuff. This also usually happens four or five times. It’s actually kind of cute, but gets old quick when you realize that she’s stuffed cake into the pocket of her pants and you are the one that has to launder it.
In addition to the horrors of eating piles of pastries next to processed turkey fat with mushy stuffing and grape jelly instead of cranberry sauce, Nagymama is a bit hard of hearing and my family is naturally very loud. Like…REALLY loud. On more than one occasion, I’ve noticed people move tables just so they aren’t near us. This usually doesn’t stop Nagymama from running up to adjacent tables and following small children around the restaurant and patting them on the head. People usually think its sweet, but after a few minutes, it gets a little creepy when she doesn’t stop patting and they notice that she has cake and salad dressing on her fingers.
So, although everyone means well, our Thanksgiving usually ends up being an unnecessarily overindulgent, sticky mess. But if you think about it, there actually is something very uniquely “American” about that!
Photo courtesy of Garrison Photography