Many years and countless failures were all spent in my training to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving feast. The steps included in the traditional Thanksgiving included; Roasting a turkey(It should be aromatic, tender, juicy and have a crisp perfectly browned skin), hand making stuffing ( A four day process that started with cutting bread into cubes, and ends with a perfect balance of moist and dry, chewy and crunchy, and savory and sweet.) and pumpkin pies from scratch( A fresh pumpkin to begin, resulting in a butter flakey crust filled perfectly with handmade pumpkin pie filling. Baked until slightly firm and the crust sticks perfect to the edges and just browns at the very edge.) They were all just part of the lessons I went through in my family holiday meal preparation training. Little did I know the first Thanksgiving meal I would spend with my soon to be new family I was entirely unprepared for?
“Are you ready to go yet?” Patrick, my future brother in law asks. I frantically am running around grabbing things and shoving them into my purse. I am just slightly frazzled, trying to figure out how to prepare a holiday meal with only a single burner and a mini fridge. Can it be done? I ask in my head.” Almost ready.” I yell back to him. My eyes scan the room, trying to remember if there is anything else I need to grab before we go. We currently live in a one room motel room, by we I mean; Peet my boyfriend, Patrick his brother, Jackie, their Mom and Chris their Dad. Scanning the room you can see how very crowded we are. The room is about 20ftx12ft, there are 3 queen beds, 3 TV’s, one closet, 1 dresser and a mini fridge. Then there is the bathroom, which also doubles as a kitchen somewhat, it has the single burner and pan as well as the microwave. Crowded I guess was stating it mildly.
The room in my parent’s house, I left to come stay with them was half this sized and meant for only me. I had a room full of fine furniture and was not the slightest bit crowded, well at least not physically. We all make choices in life and I made mine, but it has left me in a world outside the one I know. I have gone from a world of opulence and abundance to one of necessary means.
I am fairly sure at this point I have what I need so I head out the door; being very sure I have locked it properly. Locking the door can be the difference between keeping the stuff you own and giving it away to whomever happens to try your door knob. There is absolutely no sense of community in a rundown motel where people live instead of stay a few nights.
Patrick and I head out to gather what we can for three of us to have a Thanksgiving dinner. Jackie has to work and Chris in uninterested in being part of a family meal. So it is just us three, to be honest Peet and Patrick are only going along with this to try and be nice to me, they could careless as well about Thanksgiving. I guess it can be hard in times of discontent to find things to be thankful for, but for me it is tradition. I think it is one they will appreciate; every situation has something to be thankful for.
Peet is working and we want to get things together while he is at work. I put together a list of modified items that I think I can pull off with the microwave and burner, but am still trying to figure out how to manage turkey properly.
“Wow, there are a lot of people here.” says Patrick. I say, “Welcome to grocery shopping on Thanksgiving.” Grocery shopping on Thanksgiving is never fun, especially when you are trying to buy the same things everyone else is trying to buy. “Ok, so we have a handful of items to buy and only so much $$$, let’s do this”, I mumble to myself. I have never had to combine so many restrictions into one meal, we have what I want to make, then there is what I can actually make given the available facilities and then there is what I can afford to buy and can possibly make. My head is spinning, running combinations through, my head, ranking importance of yams, to corn in comparison to macaroni and then stuffing. Patrick asks,” Are you sure this is really worth all the drama to you? We can just go to Taco Bell.”
“I appreciate your thoughtfulness, but I am sure. Can you grab the last gravy can over there?” I say. As if moving a herd of cows through mud, we make our way across the grocery store, slowly. After running all the combinations through my head and grabbing items through angry crowds, I think I am done. We head to the registers to pay. We are bombarded at the register by donation opportunities, donate to this and donate to that. We finally are walking through the sliding glass doors out of the store.
“I don’t think I will ever understand the fuss over Holiday meals.” Says Patrick,” It is just one meal.” I feel bad knowing I will be struggling to pull off this meal at all, and it will be nowhere close to what I am capable of producing given facilities and budget I could do much better, but I don’t want to point that out so I simply say,” Taking time out of the rush of life, to spend time preparing food together and then sitting around eating it together, give people a chance to enjoy one another’s company and appreciate each other’s help. I appreciate you coming with me shopping, we got to hang out and do something different.”
We get back to the motel after walking the 2 miles back from the store. We both start taking items out and trying to arrange what needs to be refrigerated in the mini fridge. We get all the ingredients sorted out, but something in my head is standing out as missing. I am unable to figure out what though.
Peet gets back from work and walks in the door, “Is the food ready?”
“I don’t know are you done cooking it?” I say back to him.
“Ha, Ha, Ha” he says. He starts looking through all the treasures we gathered at the store earlier. He looks up at me and says,” I don’t see any Turkey.”
“That’s what missing, I thought something was missing when we were putting stuff away, but couldn’t figure out what.” I state.
Peet jumps up, “Let me change and we will go get some.” I begin to panic a little though while he is getting dressed. It is now 2:00pm on Thanksgiving; most of the stores are probably closed. Patrick says he doesn’t want to go back out one trip was enough for him, but Peet talks him into joining our adventure.
We head out once again, but this time on a mission, to find turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. We head back to the area Patrick and I were in earlier but the two major grocery stores there are already closed. So we decide to try a few of the smaller markets we know around town and see if we have any luck.
3 little markets later things are not looking so good; we are not sure where to check next. We begin to start to head back home on the brink of giving up and we see a small deli, so we decide to check it out. We are luck they have turkey, well turkey lunchmeat style, it will have to do. Rejoicing in our find, Peet is skipping down the street overjoyed. I am not so sure about how a block of unsliced lunchmeat will go with Thanksgiving, but Peet is a great example of how to take pleasure in the small things. Our mission was accomplished, so we head home.
The meal prepared and partaken of that day was by no means the best I have ever had, but the day it’s self the memories and the lessons learned, make that Thanksgiving one of the more important ones I have had so far. Thanksgiving used to mean elaborate meals and decorations, that day taught me I was only opening myself up to part of the reason for the day. Experiencing Thanksgiving in the life of another social class is a wonderful opportunity to see what really matters about how you celebrate and what is just fluff. I still prepare a big elaborate meal every year, but now we invite over all the new folks or those without a place to go and we meet new people as well as bond with those we already love. That day started a new tradition changing the focus of the holiday from the meal to the people.