WASHINGTON, November 21, 2017 — It is time for our annual I love Thanksgiving. I love dressing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, turkey and pumpkin pie. Unfortunately, my wife, raised in England, doesn’t like any of those things. So we often have lamb or goose, creme brûlée or a caramel tart for dessert. Our meal is always excellent, but it doesn’t quite feel like Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving: A great time to be together, but a better time to be apart?
This year, for the first time, we’re spending the holiday apart. That’s because my wife went to Paris for a conference last week, then on to Beaujolais to visit some friends. She’ll be home Saturday. Until then, I’m home alone with the kids.
It’s been fun, except for when it’s been tragic. “Catherine clogged the toilet, and instead of fixing it, she put a sign on it that says ‘Out of order!'” “Well we have another one! Can’t you count?” “Lazy!” “Jerk!” “Did you hear what she called me?!”
My wife and I are both good cooks, so our kids have had to put up all their lives with food like lemon potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, and macaroni and cheese made from scratch. When they were five and seven, they came home from a friend’s house raving about the wonderful mac-and-cheese they’d have for lunch. I called their friend’s mom to ask for her recipe.
“Oh, it was easy,” she said. “Kraft. I made it from a box.”
Harlan, 16, complained when he came home for the holiday that we don’t have any real food in the house.
“There’s nothing to eat here! All you have in the refrigerator are condiments!”
“What do you mean by ‘real food’?”, I asked.
“Stuff we can eat without having to mess with it,” he replied. I invited him to go to the supermarket with me to shop for “real food.” In ten minutes, our basket was full of chips, dip, bagel bites, eggnog, strawberry lemonade and frozen pizzas. I’d never bought a frozen pizza before. “I had one of these at a friend’s house,” said Harlan. “DiGiorno is really good.”
He wasn’t wrong. We ate a four-cheese, rising crust pizza that night. It was delicious. I’d be jealous of my wife eating fresh croissants for breakfast every morning, but I don’t have to be; I have DiGiorno.
I’m thinking of buying some frozen buffalo wings next. Who knew there were so many amazing things in the frozen foods section?
Thanksgiving traditions: The backbone of the holiday
But back to Thanksgiving. With my wife gone, the kids are going to get dressing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, turkey and pumpkin pie (or maybe pumpkin cheesecake) for Thanksgiving dinner.
Catherine, 14, says she doesn’t like pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes or cranberries, and she doubts she likes dressing, either.
“How do you know?,” I demand. “You’ve never tried them. Anyway, this isn’t a restaurant or a democracy. It’s a holiday celebration, and one of its rituals is a lot of cooking to prepare enough food to last us for a week. You’re going to eat sweet potatoes and dressing and turkey sandwiches (and hash and soup) for a week, and you’re going to like it or you’re going to starve. Remember the starving children in France; they have to live on smelly cheese. You don’t. Be grateful. And I’ll compromise: you don’t have to eat the pumpkin pie.”
The food is important, but it isn’t the entire Thanksgiving experience. I want to prepare my kids for life as adults with in-laws and significant others at the Thanksgiving table. So I’ve given them the list of topics we’ll discuss over dinner so they can be prepared: religion, politics, and their poor lifestyle choices.
What’s Thanksgiving without tedious, sanctimonious lectures and indigestion? With my wife gone, they’ll get the full experience. It will be fun.