I remember one Thanksgiving growing up where my Uncle smoked 40 turkeys, some for us, some for the people who’d heard what good turkeys he smoked. Half of us were up all night preparing food. We had, probably, a hundred people that year for Thanksgiving. Tables set up all over the yard, four different kinds of potatoes, desserts a go-go. But, it was a hundred people comprised of mostly family members, and by the time teh feast actually rolled around I don’t think we were particularly interested in eating it. At one point, my father tried to jump out of a moving car. He might have had a case of beer to drink by himself, and it might have just been a dirt road, but still, I think the physics were against him. At another family Thanksgiving my Grandmother, who felt she was under-appreciated by her children, and was stone cold sober, took off down the dirt road for hours in a pair of rubber flip-flops. Eight hours later, when she came home, my father made a comment about my grandmother’s “huffing off” that he really shouldn’t have, and she removed her rubber flip-flop and flung it at his head. Its a good thing he ducked. The rubber flip-flop took a one-inch gouge out of the wood door.
Needless to say, I have never been a big fan of holidays.
Until, that is, I moved to New Orleans. Here, I discovered that its not holidays I don’t like, but FAMILY holidays. I mean, really, the idea of spending the two days you are guaranteed off a year with people you are required to like by blood ties, and probably agree with on no salient points, is rather ridiculous. My first Thanksgiving in New Orleans I wound up at the racetrack taking part in an old Souther Tradition of cocktails, big fancy hats, gambling if you so choose, and food with friends. It began with brunch, with pumpkin pancakes and two different kinds of cheesy quiche, then ran right in to bloody marys and more mimosas at the track, and then into a lavish dinner with two different kinds of oyster dressing. It ended with what I could already tell were the beginnings of a hangover. It was splendid. It was fun. People kept their shoes on. Who knew holidays could be like that?
It was here that I discovered that holidays can and should be what you want them to be. That they don’t have to be about volumes of presents and stale traditions. Here, we keep traditions alive if they’re fun, or if they click with us. No one dares make the THING that great grandma so and so used to make and so you keep making it even though no one can stomach the THING. In New Orleans, there is no room on the table for ick. We take our food and our booze and our TIME seriously.
Its not that I don’t love my family. Well. Most of my family. But I’ve come to realize that in my life, family might have a new meaning. After all, my family live far away now. Its not them that bring me soup when I’m sick or surprise me with random cupcakes. It is not with my family that I spend the majority of my time. And even if this new set of social dynamics has its issues, it also has a firm belief that holidays should be happy days. They should be about deliciously big hats and scrumptious food and relaxed, long days. And this, my friends, is a discovery that I am most thankful for this season.
Here’s hoping your holidays are savory – and perhaps a bit salacious!