Good Thanksgiving Memories

November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’d like to give thanks today for how this year has progressed and the wonderful people in my life who make living it quite so fantastic.

Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American/Canadian holiday that I’ve been aware of but never really celebrated or participated in until I left the United States to study in Wales, followed by two separate and equally memorable occasions with friends in Chicago.

I vaguely remember attending two Thanksgiving meals prepared by the American members of the International Students Association (of which I served as Vice Chair). It was a potluck but I didn’t contribute a dish, I remember, as I was still under the impression that the holiday food was centered around Turkey and meat. My memory of those two days are filled with everyone sitting along a looong table, the room filled with the echoes of chatter and laughter, and everyone seemingly stuffing food down their own throats until food coma commenced. If I wasn’t so very close to everyone who worked so hard to prepare the food and organize the holiday meal, I would probably have given it a miss altogether. I particularly remember my Greek-German-American friend’s ‘secret family recipe’ cheeseball which was the size of a fist and that I finished almost singlehandedly. No doubt, Thanksgiving became synonymous with a good excuse to enjoy a fun-filled thematic party, mid-day with friends – particularly featuring out-of-this-world cheese and crackers!

My next invite to join in Thanksgiving festivities came from a dear friend over 4 year later in Chicago. Hyde Park resembled a ghost town during those few days, when nearly all my friends and classmates returned to their respective homes to spend Thanksgiving with their families. My dearest friend decided to stay in Chicago and invite her mother to drive up from Nashville and a childhood family friend (also living in state) to celebrate the day with her instead.  When she heard I would be around (and alone!) on Thanksgiving, she insisted I join her and her two guests for the day. Accepting her invite wasn’t difficult, not because I didn’t want to spend the day alone, but because I knew the day wouldn’t be hyped and low maintenance. I knew I wouldn’t have to anything  to lose. In fact, if nothing else, I knew I had a new culinary experience to enjoy because she was a fellow vegetarian and her whole Thanksgiving meal would be meat-free and featuring the ‘tofurkey’. Now isn’t that enough intrigue to accept her invitation graciously?!  This time around too, I didn’t contribute my own vegetarian Thanksgiving dish – partly because she told me there would be loads of food already…and also because I’m not a fabulous cook like her! Hahaha.

Chicago Thanksgiving 1

My First Tofurkey!

We were four ladies and a kitty that day, and I must say, the food and company was enviably fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed being able to dig into the side and main dishes and I can’t honestly remember how many helpings I had of everything until I no longer had any space. In addition to my Wales experience, Thanksgiving now also became synonymous with sharing a lavish meal with your nearest and dearest, showered with much love and affection, and no less than three extra helpings of carved Tofurkey!

My most recent Thanksgiving memories are from two years ago, only a year after my Tofurkey experience. Again, I found myself in Chicago and with no company for the traditional Thanksgiving meal. This time, it was my lovely married friends who invited me to join in their celebrations. She was my classmate in Chicago and got married the first winter after we met. It didn’t take long for the three of us to get together and realize we had a lot in common. Like me, they both spent considerable time outside and inside the US and were well aware of the pros and cons of both scenarios. One grew up in Peru while the other spent some formidable years in Papua New Guinea as a child. We quickly got into a lovely routine of meeting up with this power couple every week or two for a meal and lovely chatter.

So when Thanksgiving plans were discussed, I happily accepted an invite to give my friend company while she prepared Thanksgiving dinner for her meat-loving husband and brother-in-law. I arrived early to assist with the preparation (barely!) and setting the table for the meal and we sat and watched the annual dog show that gets televised in the US while food cooked. I fondly remember that my friend’s husband tried to carve the turkey when we sat down, but quickly handed the carving knife to his wife who he knew would do a better job! The meal was unsurprisingly fabulous thanks to the culinary skills of my lovely friend. From the sides to the specifically vegetarian tofu alternative to the wine, it was a wonderful meal. I’m not sure if football featured or not that day…probably not if I stuck around. (I’m not a big sports fan.) But it was long past dark when I left their warm aromatic apartment to head home with a bunch of leftovers to tide me over the next day. This experienced added to my already beautiful memories I already had of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving additionally became synonymous with an intimate and sacred family gathering that is multi-cultural, all-encompassing, and full of sharing.

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Setting the table for a Thanksgiving feast

In the past decade, I’ve partaken in no less than three Thanksgiving celebrations with people I love and care deeply for. Each experience has been cemented as beautiful memories that only increase the appreciation I have for this American holiday. I can’t wait for my next Thanksgiving memory!

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