Friday, November 25, 2011
I didn’t want to come home for Thanksgiving. For the past five years I have gotten used to being away. From St. Petersburg to London, I have enjoyed carefree Thanksgiving dinners and have largely avoided cooking. But this year my mother’s attempts to guilt trip me into coming home to Silicon Valley finally worked. I packed my bags and got ready for a California Thanksgiving with the family.
The Thanksgiving festivities started a few days early. We have a number of traditions in my family, and my mother made sure we fulfilled each one. My brother was only in town for the first part of the week, so mother made us go for our traditional Thanksgiving hike a few days early. Her goal was to have us collect buckeyes for her table arrangements. I think it counted as forced labor.
This was followed by our annual screening of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on VHS. I think my mother might be the only person in Silicon Valley that still has a VCR, but this week I was thankful for it. Sure, it’s a children’s movie, but I will never tire of watching Snoopy fool everyone into thinking he can’t cook just so he can have a whole Thanksgiving dinner for himself and Woodstock. Smart dog.
On Thanksgiving day I woke up at 5:30am, presumably because my stomach was so excited for Thanksgiving dinner that it wouldn’t let me sleep any later. My mother had already set the table and ordered the turkey, stuffing, and gravy from our local grocer. No, this is not traditional, but when she came to London for Thanksgiving a few years ago and saw how easy it was when I ordered the entire meal from Rosslyn Deli, she vowed never to cook a Thanksgiving turkey (or stuffing, or gravy) again.
But she didn’t leave everything to the grocery store. We had two important things to cook for our California Thanksgiving dinner: the traditional pumpkin pies and the roasted vegetables. We whipped up the pies in no time thanks to the classic Libby’s Pumpkin Pie recipe, which was a million times easier than the crazy recipe that did me in a few years ago. The vegetables were equally easy, not least because my mother had prepared most of them the day before.
Pies and vegetables ready, we waited for the family and friends to arrive. We were helped in this endeavor by a bottle of Bella Vineyards Syrah “The Crossing” 2009 from Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. The wine had nice cedar notes and hints of smoke and strawberry. Our relatives must have known how good it was, because they started arriving about five minutes after we opened the bottle.
The first relatives were followed by the second, third, and fourth, and soon the house was alive with activity. Big dishes of stuffing, mashed potatoes, and fresh salad arrived. Hors d’oeuvres came out, wine corks popped, and the normally quiet house filled with laughter.
I caught up with cousins I hadn’t seen in over five years, talked with aunts and uncles, and met close family friends’ eight-week old baby. I ate far too much of my cousin’s wife’s amazing ceviche. Maybe a California Thanksgiving wasn’t so bad after all.
Dinner started at 6:30pm and was a feast for the senses. We ate on my mother’s beautiful holiday china, which rarely makes an appearance these days (but that doesn’t stop her from buying more and more of it). Heaps of food were piled on every pretty plate and we had great conversation as we enjoyed our turkey feast.
The only break with tradition was that my mother didn’t insist we all go around the table and say what we were thankful for. Normally I would be relieved about that, but this year I wasn’t. After five long years away from my family at Thanksgiving, I felt incredibly thankful to be home surrounded by relatives and friends. Sure, I had to cook a bit. But it was a small price to pay for a great California Thanksgiving. Maybe I will make it a tradition.