Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gobble Gobble Wibble Wobble Do a Noodle Dance! Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving has always been a really important holiday for me. My father's family lives in the San Francisco Bay Area (Why my father migrated to Nevada has always been somewhat of a mystery) and thus I didn't get to see them often. Our trips down were seasonal really, we'd come down for spring, summer, and fall holidays. Spring was Easter break, the 'long' trip. Summer was Summer vacation and Cousins' Week. Fall was Thanksgiving, our last chance to see our family before the winter snows made travel over Donner Pass too dangerous.

Before those who have never been over the Sierra Nevada in winter start giggling (Or those who drive it regularly winter or no), please remember that we're talking about a single mother in a small, front wheel drive compact car attempting to go over a pass that does get shut down often in the winter, or at least gets chain controls. Not to mention that getting stuck up there has happened before...

In any case, Thanksgiving was the last chance to see family until either March or April and while a quick trip, it was almost always fun. Mom would yank my sister and I out of school the Wednesday beforehand (And of course any chance to get out of school early...) load us up, and we'd be off to Bay Area in the annual race to beat the traffic. Certainly we had our share of adventures along the way, for example the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake managed to cause some issues, mainly the collapse of the Cypress Viaduct meant that our normal route to Grandma and Papa's house was gone, which ended up with Mom getting lost and winding up far, far from where we were supposed to go.

But usually we'd arrive and then the next day would be the big day, and boy was it. My family normally seats around 20+ for Thanksgiving and would serve turkey, stuffing, rolls, salad, mashed potatoes, peas, candied yams, corn, Quiche, olives, stuffed celery, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and mincemeat pie. Not to mention all the snacks that came before and after, the wine, sparkling apple cider, etc. The table would stretch from one end of whomever's house we were at (It rotated every year) to the other and groan with the weight of the food, plates, and cutlery. The kitchen would become a mini-war center overseen by various aunts, mothers, and of course Grandma in which foods that had been more or less cooked at various houses were heated up and served while dishes would be washed and the dishwasher loaded and run non-stop. In the mean time, various uncles and Papa would be watching TV (Usually a football game), enjoying a pre-dinner drink, and yelling at various cousins and kids to either settle down a bit or not eat too many snacks and spoil our dinners.

We various cousins and kids of course would be ignoring this and tearing trough the house and outdoors like loons and sneaking as many snacks as we possibly could.

The magic time would be right before dinner when the turkey finally came out and raids on the kitchen would start in order to claim that magic prize, turkey skin!

To this day, my aunts have never managed to serve a non-bald turkey. The skin is always stripped before we get close to carving.

And finally of course, dinner, with family and catching up with what happened since we last saw each other, high dinner theater of the inevitable political argument, and finally clean-up with a chance of a possible ice and whipped cream war started by my grandmother.

It was glorious.

The rest of the weekend would be spent digesting and the start of Christmas shopping on Saturday. Sunday, we'd get into the car and race home in the hopes of not getting trapped by snow while listening to Christmas music; or rather, my sister and I would pray for snow on Sunday so that the pass would shut down and we'd have another day off from school.

Now as a kid, I liked Thanksgiving, but it was Christmas and Halloween where my heart belongs (Kids are kids and free candy and presents top turkey), but as an adult when I started making my own trips down to the Bay Area Wednesday night after classes would be over with at university, I started to really appreciate being able to be with my family.

And then I moved to Japan.

If any time of the year gets me homesick, it's Thanksgiving. As noted, it was the last time that I would normally gather with my whole family for the year. I missed the foods, I missed the traditions, I missed my family. Japan does have family gathering type holidays, two of them in fact and we do gather, but they are in late summer and New Year's and we gather at Beloved's parents house. There's also a lack of turkey in Japan as well. So for 7 long years, I didn't really have Thanksgiving. Oh, sure, I'd try to make something special, maybe have some chicken on the day, and I would give thanks, but... it wasn't Thanksgiving.

This year though, well... This year we have a house of our own and I have two sons who have not learned about this part of their heritage (And given the Japanese calendar, are unlikely to ever make it back to the States in time for it). We also had Beloved's parents coming up for Makoto's 7-5-3 festival and Japan's Labor Thanksgiving Day was the Friday after Thanksgiving Day thus I had a day off to cook so... It was time to have my own Thanksgiving.

Turkey before the roasting
Which was scary enough, yes. My previous attempts at cooking a turkey (One of my aunt's gave me a turkey when I was in college as payment for helping her) was mixed at best. Oh sure, the bird came out great, the gravy... Well, all I remembered was that one mixed pan drippings in with flour. Our gravy was more turkey flavored paste. Thus I concluded that Thanksgiving dinner should be left to wise aunts, mothers, and grandmothers. But this year... I had no wise aunts, mothers, and grandmothers to fall back on as turkey and the trimmings are quite different from the Japanese dishes that Beloved and her mother are so good at. Even worse, the time difference meant that there would be no panicked phone calls back to the States in hopes of getting a wise aunt/mother/grandma on the phone to help with a disaster. And even worse-er, just about everything would have to done from scratch. You simply cannot buy a lot of the pre-made stuff.

But I was going to do it anyway. And I did. Spending Thursday night making the pie and all day Friday cooking I served turkey (Bought from Foreign Buyers Club) in a roaster that came from the US, oyster stuffing from a recipe that has been passed down through my family from my great-great-great-grandmother, cranberry sauce, and candied yams. The smells of the day brought me back home and the fact that my sons proceeded to devour the bird and the trimmings till both of their bellies were large and round proved that they are indeed my true born sons, blood of my blood and Americans in the bone.

I see you trying to get into it!
Actually, it was a bit of a problem as Hikaru kept coming into the kitchen and trying to get me to feed him turkey while it was cooling by pointing and saying "Turkey! Eat!" and when I wouldn't, he'd go and get Jiji, Mommy, or Baba in an effort to get them to give him turkey. He got quite annoyed when that didn't happened and attempted to conduct a raid on the table instead. Somewhere I could hear my female relatives laughing at me as I fought to defend my dinner from a toddler. But my in-laws also took to Thanksgiving dinner, and to turkey skin (I, too, had to serve a bald turkey). In fact, the best compliment I received was Beloved asking me to make this again next weekend, which I am so not going to do, but it was great that it was enjoyed that much.

It wasn't quite the same, but it was Thanksgiving with food, laughter, and family gathered together before the coming chill.

Happy Thanksgiving!
It was glorious.

And it also was a taste, if a small one, of home; a chance to introduce my culture a bit to my sons and my in-laws. It was nice to see them taking to it so well too. My father-in-law even managed to get right into the swing of things with traditional American happily overstuffed on Thanksgiving dinner after-dinner nap. And I didn't even have to tell him about that one either!

1 comment:

  1. Nice bro! i wanna eat that chicken!