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« Shopping Mania (Sujatha) | Main | Sometimes A Line Is Just A Line »

November 24, 2006


That's interesting. I wonder how many non-Christian families use Christmas as the default time to gather? Could be most; it just never occurred to me. In my family, Thanksgiving is the sine qua non family holiday, both because we don't celebrate Christmas (there is an annual Greater Levine Family Hannukah shindig, but attendance, unlike at the Lesser Levine Family Thanksgiving, is not mandatory) and because of the near religious fervor of my father's thankfulness for our good fortune as immigrants. Standard rituals include the "America's been very good to us" paterfamilial speach; going around the table to say why we're each thankful; etc. Then we eat gluttonously and make family decisions about charitable giving, a combination that strikes me as deeply American, for better and worse. We always eat turkey, a raw cranberry sauce and a cooked cranberry sauce, an "Indian pudding" recipe from my mother's grandmother (grits and cheese and corn, basically), stuffing and dressing, sweet potatoes (this year, with a horseradish and molasses glaze), sometimes parsnips, a pumpkin pie and an apple pie, sometimes some other stuff. My mother, her aunt, my sister, and I make everything from scratch over the course of two days. The food is extremely tasty (we are excellent cooks, I think) though a nutritionist's nightmare. We never shop on Black Friday. Given how unlike other Americans I feel through the Christmas season (I celebrate the holiday with my partner's family, and enjoy their rituals, but always feel like a cultural outsider), the easy secular humanist themes and ideologically vague rituals of Thanksgiving have always seemed quite comforting.

That said, of course I agree it's okay not to eat turkey (and I think that canned cranberry gloop should be banned). I will definitely try your recipe for Chicken Mughlai, a dish I once made in law school following a Madhur Jaffrey recipe (a fine recipe, though sometimes insufferable author). Before cooking again, though, I'm committing myself to fresh fruits and veggies for a couple weeks to expiate the nutritional sins of my Thanksgiving dinner.

I've always preferred Christmas to Thanksgiving as a secular holiday. Probably because when I was a kid, opening Christmas gifts was terribly exciting, and it meant extended breaks from school. Today the main benefit of each is the family gathering--although I do prefer the excitement that I perhaps imagine in the public air as Christmas approaches (although the recent "war on Christmas" nonsense is extremely frustrating, and seems to have the potential to spoil that).

Horseradish Sauce Recipe:
Ingredients: sour cream, grated onion, prepared horseradish, salt...>view the recipe

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