Thanksgiving, while a joyous occasion for many, can also cause a great deal of anxiety and dress. Not just the cooking, baking, and other preparation, but the experience of being with loved ones, be they family and/or friends, at the dinner table. “You can’t pick your relatives–but you can pick your nose” remains relevant for many, and for some people, a little nose picking is probably a great deal more fun than extended time with family. None of us have perfect families, and though we love them, it can sometimes be hard to be around some of them. In 2006, Kim Severson wrote this piece for the NY Times about defusing some of those holiday dinner troubles.
COOKS can control the Thanksgiving menu, but when the dishes leave the kitchen, things can unravel fast.
Family grudges buried by time and distance resurface. New girlfriends meet ex-husbands. Prius drivers make small talk with S.U.V. owners. And vegans spend the meal defending themselves.
It’s enough to break a cook’s heart. We seek the culture of the table as much as a well-made stuffing. We want the pace of the meal to be dreamy, the conversation indelible. Nirvana is a table trimmed with our best platters and a room brimming with friends, family and warm feelings.
The problem: Americans, as a whole, have lost touch with the ritual of the shared homemade meal. Although we eat at home a lot, the food often is from restaurants or the prepared foods section of the grocery store. Families eat in shifts and leave the television on. The sandwich has become the most popular dinner entree.
I have a friend whose Thanksgiving meal went south just after her grandmother called her brother a cowardly Communist. Another friend’s nightmare began when her mother’s new boyfriend started talking about breasts, and he wasn’t referencing the turkey.