First ‘adult’ Thanksgiving taught valuable lessons
The first Thanksgiving. Not the one with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony. Not even those tiny spoonfuls of mashed potatoes, popped into my mouth in my infancy. No, the first Thanksgiving for me took place my first year out of college. That was the first time I was the one sliding the turkey into the oven, making the gravy and all the other “trimmings.” That was my first adult Thanksgiving.
I did not prepare this feast solo. I shared an old farmhouse with a few other recent graduates; some close friends would join us for the day, providing an even dozen or so for dinner. It would be festive!
The preparations began well before that Thursday. Gathering the group, we fantasized about our favorite dishes, appetizers, desserts, and drinks from all our disparate family traditions, not to mention our imaginations. A list was created to encompass them all, and a major shopping trip ensued. Each of us chipped in our share of the money: all whims destined to be fulfilled.
Early on Thanksgiving Day, we gathered in the kitchen, chopping, mixing and stirring up a feast. The pies were baked, the turkey roasting and all else as prepared as could be for the moment. As a fire burned in the parlor stove, we pulled up a variety of armchairs and rockers. It was time for the drinks and appetizers.
There are many kinds of appetizers. Some actually do spark the appetite — perhaps a carrot stick or a pickle, a tiny, crisp cracker with a sliver of cheese. Others are actually the opposite: high in fat, high in calories. They taste great, and if you’re hungry, it’s easy to consume several right off, liberally washed down by the beverage of choice. I think it might have been Wild Turkey that day — in honor of the holiday, of course — a type of whiskey that has an extra high alcohol content. But it might have been some wine or maybe eggnog with a liberal splash of rum. The overall result was the same, no matter which.
The turkey was done. As I pulled it from the oven, those Butterball juices slopped out of the pan onto the wooden floor. Setting it quickly on the counter, we grabbed towels to sop up the grease. While a couple of people continued to tackle the oil spill, others turned to the various pots and kettles, stirring and mashing.
All appeared to be ready, except for one thing. Sated by our appetizers, no one had an appetite. Indeed, a couple of our group, settled back into their chairs, were already softly snoring. Those of us still upright agreed to take a break, a walk, a nap. We were not remotely ready to eat a feast.
Hours later, still somewhat lethargic, we reassembled in the kitchen, reassessed the food. Slowly, we began to put that meal together. It filled the long table, looking festive and giving off a savory aroma. We all sat down and ate some of that dinner, but it felt unneeded, superfluous. We picked at the turkey, passed around unwanted pieces of pie and, finally giving up, packed up the piles of leftovers. The food had turned out well; that was not the problem. It was fine, but it wasn’t a feast or, at least, we did not feast upon it. We laughed at our lack of interest — so far from our fantasized meal.
I had a friend at that time who would create events for people. On his business card was the statement: “Excess knows no bounds.” That is pretty much the definition of excess. As kids, we had probably fantasized excess: unlimited access to a cookie jar or box of chocolates; first, second and third dibs on the best pieces of meat off the platter; no one calling a halt as we spooned our favorite whatever into bowl or plate. I don’t think any of us had ever been food deprived. I am equally sure that none of our Depression-reared parents would have put together a feast they would be too full to even tackle. Most of them had learned the pleasure of “just enough.”
I said that this was my first adult Thanksgiving. Actually, it was probably my last child Thanksgiving. Fantasizing excess brings a certain amount of pleasure. Actual excess takes away the enjoyment. To truly enjoy a feast, you need to bring more than food to the table; you need to bring hunger.
Laurie Cox is a retired school counselor and long-time Ripton selectboard member. Besides occasional writing, she sings with Maiden Vermont, pursues art, takes long hikes with her dog(s) and seasonally gardens. She also is about to become more actively involved in things political, environmental, and just.