Have you ever noticed that most restaurants don’t serve turkey unless it is a holiday? The first and only time I ate Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant, someone took my order, cooked my food, served it to me, and it all felt very very wrong. Restaurants are for celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, or because it has been a long day and there is nothing in the fridge, but Thanksgiving dinner is more than a meal. It is about giving thanks for each other through the process of travel and food shopping and football and setting the table and taking out the trash, and laughter, and occasional shouting.
More than ever this year, a number of people I know are opting to dine out at a restaurant for Thanksgiving. They say it’s easier. I say they are missing the point. Criminals surely think that stealing is easier than earning something themselves. Cheaters think copying answers is easier than studying, and Hollywood obviously thinks remaking an old film is easier than coming up with a new idea, but is easier better? Rarely. I believe making time and putting in the effort reflects what is important to you.
At our house, the November holiday includes three generations of family and friends sharing a potluck of holiday food, but the celebration begins long before the turkey roasts, the pies bake, and the house fills with the memories of tradition. When the first crisp fall days call summer to its end, emails fly around cyberspace asking who will be home for the holiday? There is a lot of planning involved. Where does everyone sleep? How much food do we need? With so much to think about, I’m not opposed to shortcuts. No need to tear up bread and chop onions for stuffing, Stove Top works just fine. Though I always peel and boil potatoes before mashing, instant will suffice. I’m even forgiving of store bought pie. The reward comes from demonstrating how thankful we are for the good in our lives and for each other by contributing to and sharing in the meal. Sitting down at the table together is the opportunity to take pride in each other, and it always leaves me feeling grounded, centered, and humbled because I can’t achieve it alone.
Though it can be a lot of work for a single meal, Thanksgiving offers great rewards. My most memorable Thanksgiving was during semester abroad in college. The group consisted of nine Americans-all strangers to me on day one. I was lonely and homesick in the first few weeks, but somehow in the makeshift dorm kitchen, and with the help of the University which provided the “turkey” (actually a chicken, they don’t have turkey in Japan) we cobbled together a feast for twenty eight. Our Japanese guests celebrated the totally American holiday for the first time, and I celebrated the first Thanksgiving without my family, but in the process, these strangers became my foster family, and even with an impostor turkey and frozen peas, the day was filled with laughter and love. Thanksgiving traditions bond people together long after they are physically apart.
For anyone scheduled to meet at a restaurant this Thursday to spend an hour or two at a meal just like any other, think twice. If you’d rather enjoy a home cooked meal and make some new friends, let me know. We always have room for one more 🙂