A Pilgrams Feast
My story today is about the unfeast feast. You see I believe holidays put way too much pressure on families to spend time with one another. What if your family doesn’t like you? What if you don’t care for your father-in-law or your sister-in-law is rude? I ask you should you have to spend a holiday, a day of thanks with people who are less than thankful? Isn’t it about being with people you love and who love you? Isn’t it about being thankful for your blessings? Yes, that is what I believe.
Gladys had been preparing or helping prepare traditional Thanksgiving dinners since she was old enough to walk. She would be given the task of cutting up the fruit for the fruit salad or cooking the corn bread and shredding the stale bread for stuffing. She would stand on a stool and chop up the onions or pecans. She did which ever job she was given and she loved it. She enjoyed preparing a special feast for a special day. Gladys, Matilda and Nurse Meme would often prepare days in advance so that they could eat dinner before Nurse Meme’s shift. It was always quite the spread with turkey and dressing, gravy, sweet potato casserole, broccoli casserole, asparagus casserole, mashed potatoes, green salad, fruit salad and of course pies. There would be Nanny’s chocolate pie for Buck, minced meat for Trooper Bob, pumpkin for Gladys and pecan for Matilda. It was more food than a family of five could eat in a month but somehow they managed.
That is how Gladys was brought up and how she was trained. When she was grown with a family of her own she believed that in order to enjoy Thanksgiving she must cook like a crazy woman for a week before the big day, then she should run around town getting all kinds of special gourds and candles to make the table just so. She should find sparkling cider for the wine glasses and bring out the best china on which to serve her special feast. She did this year after year for her little family. She cooked and baked and broiled and glazed. She shopped and fought for just the perfect bird. She visited vegetable markets and specialty groceries to find fresh cranberries and the sweetest oranges. Every year she would proudly present to her little family the fruits of her labor. Every year she expected to be ooohed and awed and edified on her abilities as a cook.
Unfortunately Gladys mate was not the edifying kind. Instead he would cut into the oh so moist turkey and declare “not enough sage” or dip into the potatoes and gruff “too creamy”. He even one time told her that her homemade rolls were not fluffy enough. Gladys felt a little deflated and hurt. She had poured her heart and soul into her meals only to be met with criticism and scorn. She wondered where the spirit of being thankful had gone. She stored this in the back of her mind and went about the next year improving her skills and gathering new recipes. She tried to figure out what it could be maybe it was the stove, maybe it was her spices. She worked on improving her dough to make her rolls light and fluffy, her pie crust flakey and her turkey juicier.
The next Thanksgiving rolled around and once again she laid out her feast. The turkey was golden and glistening, the rolls were steaming and flakey slathered in whipped honey butter, the sweet potatoes were creamy but not too creamy, the dressing was moist and tasty. Once again she stood proud of her fare only to be met with statements such as “the turkey isn’t seasoned enough” or “these rolls aren’t like my grandma made, hers were much better”. Gladys hung her head and picked at her plate. What could she have done wrong she wondered. Again she filed these critiques in the back of her mind. She cleaned the kitchen wiped down the table and realized she had done all of the work. She had shopped, she had cooked, she had decorated and she had cleaned. What did she have to be thankful for?
The next Thanksgiving rolled around and this time Gladys did not shop, she did not bake and she did not decorate. She instead got her book, turned on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and sat and drank a cup of coffee. Her little family sat stunned. When lunch time came around they all looked to Gladys to once again lay out the holiday feast, instead Gladys got up off the couch and made herself a peanut butter and banana sandwich and a glass of milk and returned to the couch and her book.
There was crying of outrage. There was protest of hunger. There were outburst of anger and demands of turkey. Gladys looked at the ungrateful little family and said “I am thankful that I have this day off from work. I am thankful that I have food to eat. I am thankful that I am capable of preparing it for myself and I am thankful you all know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and if you want to eat I suggest you be thankful for that too. I have cooked and slaved and prepared and baked every year and every year I have heard criticism and complaints. Since my food is so horrible and the fact that there is always so much has been offensive to you I decided this year I wouldn’t inflict my cooking on you.”
The family stood with mouths agape. What kind of thanksgiving feast was this they cried? Gladys smiled and said “it is the unfeast feast. It is a true day of thanksgiving and not a day of complaints. Now I suggest you go find something to for which to be thankful.”
So remember to kiss the cook, be thankful for the roof over your head and the extra effort people take to be nice to one another on this day. Remember to find something good in everyone and if you can’t then stay home and eat peanut butter and banana sandwiches.