being a mom

Cheatsgiving: Because Thanksgiving Food is Super Gross

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thumbnailMy family hates Thanksgiving. Or, more accurately, I love the idea of Thanksgiving, and my husband and daughter hate Thanksgiving food.

Thanksgiving was always a kind of magical mystery to me, a riddle wrapped in a cipher and smothered in secret sauce. When I was 6, my mom told me we were going camping and then dropped me off at a “boarding school for underprivileged kids”.

Which is I guess what we’re calling it these days.

Which is I guess what we’re calling it these days.

Thanksgivings there were actually a lot less sad then you would imagine, but about as disgusting as you’re thinking, what with all the canned turkey and instant mashed potatoes that tasted like play dough. But according to the Disney channel, there existed a magical place where candles twinkled, turkeys resembled actual birds, and the green beans were never soggy. From the day that I trapped my future husband with a surprise pregnancy, I began planning the magic that was my new favorite imaginary holiday.

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Our first few Thanksgivings as a family were a breeze; my husband and I were still in college, and my daughter wasn’t making memories anyway, so we ended up phoning it in at various family members’ houses, where my daughter was content to stuff anything pureed into her mouth and my husband was content to substitute most of the meal with festive alcoholic drinks. I didn’t have to cook, and all was well with the world.

Then Texas happened.

Right after we graduated college, we surrendered our American citizenship for permanent residence in the Republic of Texas, far from the rest of our respective families, spread across the Northeast and Georgia.

At first, I was undaunted, and vowed to “do” Thanksgiving anyway, but failed miserably. One year I ended up with a turkey that was inexplicably overdone and dry for three inches and then frozen solid the rest of the way through. The next year, we invited a couple over, and in hindsight I’m wondering if the wife was a functioning sociopath, because she managed to slip a copious amount of almond extract into every single side dish.

 What kind of monster does this?

What kind of monster does this?

When she left, my husband gave me a deadly side eye.

“Never again,” he proclaimed.

“Never?” I squeaked.

“Never,” he hissed, which is hard to do because this word has no sibilants.

We were at an impasse as I tried to bargain for my favorite foods. My daughter vetoed the mashed potatoes because she is clearly not my child at all but some kind of traitorous changeling. My husband vetoed green bean casserole because he has no respect for our wedding vows. We all agreed that we would rather eat a case of Friskies than any kind of cranberry sauce.

 Mmmm. “Feed the senses”, indeed.

Mmmm. “Feed the senses”, indeed.

That basically just left turkey, which I was prepared to pair with mac and cheese and Fritos if it meant not cancelling Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the next year, my daughter started kindergarten, and declared halfway through November that there would be none of that, mother, thankyouverymuch.

Anthropomorphized turkeys spilled from her book bag—on every math worksheet Sad Eyes McGobble stared up at her, begging her not to slaughter his brethren. And she took up the cause. With gusto.

“Killing animals is super gross,” she told me.

“So what should I make for Thanksgiving, then?”

“I dunno, sea bass?” Sea bass. This child did not just tell me to make a $24.99 a pound fish filet for dinner.

“Fish are animals,” I reminded her.

“Yeah, but they’re delicious animals.”

My husband thought this idea was spectacular. I pointed out that I would rather eat cranberry sauce than any kind of fish, so he asked me what I wanted for dinner that day.

“Chicken tikka masala,” I quipped, hoping he would hear the sarcasm in my voice and take pity on me, but he nodded in agreement. Enthused, unironic agreement.  And just like that, Thanksgiving disappeared. Or at least, it’s been reincarnated.

Now we have a new Thanksgiving meal; sea bass and cucumber salad, chicken tikka, samosas, pappadums, daal makhni, and brownies for dessert.

We don’t cook all day. We order takeout, drink wine, play board games, and watch movies. It didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t the Thanksgiving food that I loved—though let’s please be real about how delicious crescent rolls are, but the idea of having a day with my family where we can be lazy, stuff our faces, and just take a second to be grateful for one another.

As long as you have the gluttony and togetherness, who needs sweet potatoes and marshmallows anyway?

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