A holiday is not a holiday if you use any time doing what you are ordinarily paid to accomplish. I am ordinarily paid to criticize, which explains why I cook on Thanksgiving. My food, I am told, is normally unfailingly delightful – the turkey succulent, the stuffing savory, the sweet potatoes ethereally silky – which may be and then say that my guests are not critics.
The other reason I really do all the cooking is due to kinks in my own temperament – or as I favor to think about them, principles – that the vacation gives me license to indulge. The ugliest term in the English vocabulary, so far as I’m concerned, is “pot-luck supper,” especially if you style the first expression without the hyphen. It’s phonetically hideous, and even though the experience may present some alluring flavors, it will lack both coherence and a singular target for credit or blame. I’m a home auteurist. A stubborn individualist. A bourgeois sentimentalist. A meal will need to have a chef. Anything else is socialism.
But like most Americans, perhaps especially around this time of year, I’m also a good raging hypocrite. I pride myself ongoing at Thanksgiving in heroic entrepreneurial solitude – I salt the bird and baste it, make brisket a day beforehand and pan gravy at the last second – but I outsource dessert and other things that requires baking. (Gluten does not have any tolerance for me). I will request you to bring beverages, and a green vegetable if it’s not an excessive amount of trouble. I need a lot of help, and I need a lot of company.
The extra the better. Some years ago, we declared Thanksgiving a travel-free, open-door feast. We don’t fly or drive anywhere, however the invitation to join us is extended generally and freely, to good friends and kin alike. People come from Maine, Oklahoma and around the block. There are never enough chairs and definitely too much food. A plurality of men and women are meeting each other for the very first time. We begin in the middle of the afternoon and continue late into the night.
I’m mostly in the kitchen, which allows me to be sociable and antisocial in just the right balance. This may be the real motive I like to monopolize the preparing food. If the dialogue reaches an awkward move, I could delegate diplomacy to my youngsters and find something to defat or emulsify. I could hide behind the food and allow it speak for me, in the kind of soothing clichés that I am professionally at pains to avoid and condemn.