I have very fond memories of Thanksgiving. I remember my mom waking up early on Thanksgiving morning to prepare a giant turkey with her homemade stuffing. After putting the turkey into the oven for a good, long roasting, she'd pop a foil tray of frozen candied sweet potatoes in to keep the turkey company. Then, she'd line up an array of canned vegetables and, one by one, run them under the electric can opener and dump their contents into one of a number of saucepans on the stove.
Soon, our regular guests would arrive — my aunt and my grandmother. My aunt would hover around the kitchen, offering help to my mother. My mother, of course, had the meal preparation down to a science and politely declined assistance. She made the same meal every year and, at this point, could make it with her eyes closed. My grandmother knew better than to enter my mother's kitchen. Instead, my grandmother would park herself on the sofa opposite my father and complain. About everything. My father would nod and feign interest, devoting more attention to his cigarettes and the televised football game than to his mother's incessant bellyaching.
After what seemed like forever, dinner was finally served. My dad sliced up the golden-brown bird. Side dishes were passed around and plates were filled to overflowing. Then, before a single bite was take, my father would ask me his traditional question.
"Do you want cranberry sauce?," he'd ask, a big, purple, cylindrical blob quivering on the serving plate poised in his hand.
I would frown and shudder at the sight of that unnatural jellied mass. As a youngster, I would merely shake my head. As a teenager with a developing sardonic personality, I would reply accordingly.
|That's it —|
right next to the flowers.
"Have you ever seen me eat cranberry sauce?," I said one year. Another year, I replied, "I'm trying to keep my 'no cranberry sauce' streak going for another consecutive year." In later years, when I grew tired of acerbic retorts, I would just respond with an annoyed "no." My father, however, never got the message. He still continued to ask the question every year.
Life events — marriage, the deaths of my mother and father, expanding families — altered my Thanksgiving arrangements. After many years of bouncing from relatives' and friends' homes, this year, for the very first time, Thanksgiving dinner was an intimate gathering of three — my wife, my son and me. Just the Pincuses. Mrs. P, outnumbered by vegetarians 2 to 1, graciously conceded to forgo turkey and make a Tofurky® for our holiday dinner. She filled the roasting pan with fresh potatoes, carrots, celery and herbs, creating a base for that softball-sized hunk of faux poultry. With the soy "bird" safely browning in the oven, Mrs. P made her own cranberry sauce. Nope, not that weird "slide out of the can" stuff. She made the real deal, just like the Pilgrims presented to the Native Americans before the post-meal slaughter.
The table looked beautiful. In addition to the fake turkey (delicious fake turkey, I might add!), it was laden with vegetables, hot-from-the-oven-rolls, gravy and homemade cranberry sauce. And this year, I decided that my nonsense had gone on too long. I was an adult. I was going to try cranberry sauce. In a scenario reminiscent of my "baked beans" episode, and much to my wife's surprise, I bravely placed a heaping dollop of cranberry sauce on my plate alongside a gravy-covered slice of Tofurky®. At least it looked like food and not a giant, glistening eraser. I scooped up a forkful and raised it to my mouth. Then, I shoveled it home.
It was good. Really good.
I finished my initial small portion and took more. My wife smiled — pleased that I liked her cranberry sauce and pleased that I was finally eating cranberry sauce.
"Your father would be proud.," she said.
Yeah, but he'd probably question me about something else.