November 16, 2010

Turkey Day Traditions, or The Canned Cranberry Sauce Catastrophe of Thanksgiving 2003

There's a lot of talk out there about what counts as a real Thanksgiving dish and what's just a novelty. To some families, green bean casserole is the only true Thanksgiving dish, whereas others can't imagine a Turkey Day without creamed onions. For me, it's gravy. I cannot even conceive of eating Thanksgiving turkey without gravy, and I don't care to associate with anyone who can.

Let me take you on a walk down memory lane. I told this story as part of the wedding toast in which I thanked T's siblings for being so awesome and sibling-y to me right from the start, and, every time I re-tell (or re-type) it, I get just as embarrassed as I was the first time. face is pretty pink right now.

T's family is particularly fond of cranberry sauce. Not just any cranberry sauce, but the canned kind. The kind that holds its creepy, cylindrical shape when you manage to squooch (that's a word I just made up for the noise it makes) it out of the can.
The first time I met T's family was Thanksgiving of 2003, when he and I had just started dating and were just little baby high school seniors. I showed up hell-bent on impressing his whole family (which is now my family...woah), so I thought I'd help get the food ready for dinner by crushing up the cylinder of canned cranberry sauce that was hanging out in a dish on the dining room table. Should I have been tipped off by the fact that it was already out on the table? Yes. Was I? Nope.

I grabbed a fork and crushed that sauce like it embodied the chances of T's family not liking me, which is to say I crushed it a lot. I made it into a slurry of sorts. And I gave myself a mental pat on the back for helping without having to be asked, which is one of those things I was always raised to do but hated doing. Growing up, I'd have mental battles with myself while lounging on the couch, knowing that my mom was cleaning up and wanting to care, but just...not caring enough.


We all sat down to dinner and T's adorable youngest sister kept peering at me, so I knew I was interesting, at least. Then I became significantly more interesting when T's father asked, with a lot of shock and anger in his voice, "who crushed the cranberry sauce?"

Forks clattered onto plates. Heads turned towards me.* I gulped, and said that I had crushed the cranberry sauce, because I thought that's what you were supposed to do. And then I got a short (well...short-ish) lecture on why you just. don't. crush. the. cranberry. sauce.

The good thing is that I learned from this mistake, and was invited back to subsequent Thanksgiving Dinners, and then, eventually, to go ahead and become a card-carrying member (no, they don't really have cards) of T's family. wasn't that bad. But I did learn that Americans are very attached to their Thanksgiving traditions, and that messing with them is foolish.

Happy [almost] Thanksgiving! I'm off to keep my Pie Practice Party going so I don't ruin the meal (although, let's be honest, I'll probably still find a way).

*[Nerdy Sidenote: If my creative writing teacher from college were reading this, he'd draw forks throwing themselves onto plates and heads turning themselves on necks in the margins of this story, because he hated this type of anthropomorphism.]

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