Food and Relationships: That's What Thanksgiving is About
As the Affinity Express team enters another season of holidays at our global company, we decided to explore the various celebrations to better understand our respective cultures. To my colleagues in India and the Philippines, and our clients and readers around the world, I’m pleased to give you my point of view on Thanksgiving. When you ask people in the U.S. what this holiday means to them, you most often hear about the turkey. They can also wax poetic for hours about delicious pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes and more. Popular subjects of debate are the best recipe for dessert and the proper way to prepare the turkey itself (e.g., roasting versus deep frying). Rather than a superficial day dedicated to gorging on rich food, what most people are really talking about is how the annual dinner makes them feel and how it connects us. The feasts are a representation of the time spent together, whether watching parades, playing touch football, cleaning up the dishes or even meeting each other unexpectedly at the fridge in the middle of the night for a sandwich of turkey leftovers. Thanksgiving is not about giving gifts or even eating. It’s about family and friends.
On Thanksgiving, perhaps more than any other day, we look back over the course of a year to express our gratitude and across decades to celebrate with foods that evoke our best memories. I love to cook and will tackle any type of cuisine or dish, no matter how complex or daunting—but almost never on Thanksgiving. The reason is that my family’s dishes are part of our history. We always have my mother’s gravy and my own cranberry sauce. At the same time, since my immediate family moved from New York to Georgia to Illinois and is a blend of different backgrounds, we have an opportunity to make our own traditions based on a combination of old and new. For example, for the first time ever I am not going to make my grandmother’s stuffing recipe this year. Instead, I am going to try something completely different. Why? Because my kids never liked it and I have a chance to enhance the tradition that they will pass along. If they still don’t like stuffing, it’s no big deal. They will remember the chocolate pie they always request.* Thanksgiving is always evolving as our families grow and new friends become part of our lives and celebrations. One of my favorite practices for the holiday started only three years ago. I had my mother, in-laws and other family members fly into Illinois from opposite ends of the country. It was my personal mission to ensure every guest gained a minimum of ten pounds while enjoying every minute of it. Starting at dawn, I singlehandedly concocted breakfasts, lunches, appetizers, dinners and desserts at an alarming rate. I even had a blind taste test for cranberry sauce with all the mothers. But as delicious as the holiday turned out to be, I don’t think anyone could tell you what I served. What they do remember is that, during the meal, we decided to try something new for us—take a few moments to say what we were grateful for. Most said they appreciated and loved our family. Some made jokes, like when my daughter begrudgingly said she was thankful for her younger brother (on those days when he wasn’t a tremendous annoyance). As I listened to everyone else, something occurred to me. I told them I was thankful for challenges. Throughout the years with these people, especially my husband and children, I had been through some rough times. As much as I would have liked it if these hardships had never happened, I was glad in retrospect to have had my family to support me. Those difficulties allowed me to appreciate so much more special moments like this holiday when we were all in the same state and at the same table. As I looked around and saw tears in the eyes of my mother, mother-in-law and, yes, my husband, I knew I had expressed my feelings for our family in a way that touched their hearts and surpassed any delicacy I could ever hope to cook. Now we know that, wherever we might be in any given year and whatever we eat, we have the tradition of taking the time to think about what is really important. The perfect drumstick, creamy mashed potatoes and delicate pie crust? Lumpy gravy, dry turkey, soggy vegetables? Good or bad food, none of it really matters on Thanksgiving. It’s the connection with the people we care about that is the real tradition of the holiday. * Here is the recipe for one of my children’s favorite desserts. At a neighborhood event, it won blue ribbons for both best looking and best tasting pie! Thanksgiving Chocolate Pie Ingredients: