This is a Thanksgiving guest post from my dear sister! It’s foodie fiction! Emphasis on fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental. I’m certainly not one of these characters. Neither are you. Please to enjoy!
A Thanksgiving Story
by Helen Morille
When you’re fourteen and surrounded by a pack of genuine nutjobs, it’s tricky to find the spirit of thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for all the things that keep me from sounding like an entitled princess (one can hope), but I’ve grown weary with disenchantment when faced with the prospect of the big family dinner.
My mother’s cooking isn’t necessarily the problem; she grew up watching Two Fat Ladies with her less-crazy sister, my aunt Clementine, but she only managed to commit to memory the episode where the fat ladies hollowed out a loaf of crusty bread only to fill it up again with meat, peas, and potatoes, so most of her weeknight recipes are charmingly breaded. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean Panko-crusted and stuffed with goat cheese, beloved by all. I mean my mom literally “breads” the ever-loving shit out of everything. It’s a verb, an act of sensual cocoonery that happens to the most benign and unsuspecting of meals. Last night we ate chili and cornbread…in a loaf of actual bread. If you’re picturing a layer of cornbread, a layer of chili, a layer of grated cheddar, then layers of finely chopped red onion and sour cream, all packed inside a country white loaf, you’re spot on. Now I know my mom is on the “add a pound a butter” side of the cooking spectrum–her King Ranch Chicken casserole recipe is from an old eighties Barbara Bush recipe book (we live in Texas but my parents are as liberal as the day is long, with the exception of this one piece of political contraband), but what on earth would possess her to put cornbread and actual bread together in one dish? The tragic part is, no matter what she puts in the bread loaf, she fully expects to be able to slice it perfectly, and is fully devastated when she pokes it gently with a knife and the walls give way like the over done turkey in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, leaving a mass of chili wad and soggy bread in the center of the table (at which point my father hands us each a long handled ice tea spoon and we all prod at the poor thing lying spread eagle, guts spilled on the center of the table).
We were all excited when my mom announced that she’d decided not to give our thanksgiving dinner its breaded winter coat, but the excitement was short lived when she announced her alternative: Turkey Everything! The exclamation point was hers, not mine, I’m afraid. I’m a sullen teenager; I fancy myself a happy medium between Hermione Granger and Wednesday Addams, so I just looked over the top of The Speech: A Historic Filibuster On Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class and asked, “please mom, why and what is turkey everything?” Her enthusiasm rivaled a lottery winner describing the events leading up to buying their winning ticket–she relished every detail, which started at the obvious: “the turkey is just turkey! But then the stuffing is going to be a creamy gizzard bread pudding topped with a turkey schmaltz crumble! And then there’s the cranberry and turkey aspic, turkey neck stock mashed potatoes, and turkey chunk biscuits, and pumpkin pie with a turkey skin gribene crust!” Gribenes! I had to google it! Until the “Turkey Everything!” speech, the only Yiddish word my mom ever used was schmuck.
So, Turkey Everything! Okay. It’s weird and sure to land us in actual tryptophan comas for several days, but we live in the country and literally have nothing better to do after Thanksgiving, unless you like perusing the latest Seth Rogan blu ray offerings for two hours at our local ye olde electronics mart with my dad on Black Friday.
Aunt Clementine will arrive with her own seventeen gourmet dishes of cheese-stuffed fried olives, butter-rubbed roasted mushrooms with dates and candied bourbon pecans, and individual sweet potato gratins topped with Gruyere and crispy lardon, and it will offset the 1960’s turkey jello mold catastrophe that will be my mother’s festive spread.
No, the real trouble is my other aunt, Dorothy. Her name is adorable– she doesn’t deserve it, mainly because she rejected it in favor of forcing all of us to call her Meadow Breeze Kisses. I told her it sounded like a chocolate company decided to do cross promotions with an air freshener company. Without a word, my dad gave me five dollars on the spot and my mom was also pleased because MBK is that despicable breed of crunchy fake zen yogi master that judges all foods that aren’t chia or kale while maintaining the most frigid and uptight demeanor. She and her husband, who is an undeniable asshole, an expert in all things with a bit of an elbow problem, have a daughter named Rain, who, despite potty training at four months old (“isn’t she ahhmazing?! It’s the sign language!”) asserts her dominance by peeing on sofas and arm chairs whenever she doesn’t get her way.
Last year, MBK brought yeast soaked, sprouted chia seeds as a “savory dippy to go with kale chips! Don’t you have any kale chips? How tragic, no kale chips!” She then lectured me all through dinner about “releasing my yoni so my Crimson Moon could finally arrive,” followed by rigorous harassment about whether or not the Honey Crisp apples in my mom’s breaded apple pie were GMO free. Finally, mom shouted that MBK could take her GMO and eat a DIK (she gets flustered when angry and her acronyms suffer, but we all appreciated the effort). Rain peed on her chair at the table from lack of undivided attention, and then out came the worst of Meadow Breeze Kisses–her signature catchphrase. When MBK gets upset, rather than feel actual feelings, she suppresses everything, and instead shrieks a high pitched, terrifying sing-songy catchphrase, “PEACE AND LOVE, Peaaaaaace and Luhhhhhhhuvvvvvv!!!!!!” It is, without a doubt, the worst sound.
So, I just asked my mom, “why do we have to invite Meadow and the Chia Seed Tequila Pee-ers to thanksgiving every year?” Dad was in the room and heard my question, so five more points to Gryffindor (five more bucks for me)! He’s a writer, like me, so it literally pays to be witty ’round these parts.
Because, my mom said, because they remind us to be thankful that our own little family is together and happy; that we’re well fed, and full of love despite our flaws. That even with all our neuroses and in our low blood sugar-induced hangry rants before Turkey Everything! is laid out, we are thankful that we have each other, and that our people love us when we need it the most.
“But,” she added, “Meadow just called and has opted to not attend thanksgiving with us this year because I refused to crank the heat up to turn the house into what she called a ‘much-needed sweat lodge to detox the excess calories that will clog up our Chi.’ I told her we live in Texas and there’s not a whore’s chance in heaven that I have any desire to sweat prior to my meat sweats–save it for the turkey, sister!”
It’s a Thanksgiving Turkey Everything miracle.