At the risk of alienating my 2 readers, there is only one decent holiday that I can get behind, and that is Thanksgiving. Not because it's a day of gluttony, or not just because it's a day of gluttony. Because it's a day of feasting and relaxing and warmth during a miserable time of the year. A single moment of respite before the Spirit of Christmas vomits poinsettia and tinsel and aggressive marketing over the entire world.
I hosted my first Thanksgiving when I was 17 years old and a senior in high school. My parents were on a trip to Israel to visit my sister and also to decide if they wanted to stay married (they didn't). I invited 7 friends and put out the whole spread--I was also a vegetarian at the time and extremely proud of myself for sacrificing my principles for the greater good of my guests and the great tradition of Thanksgiving by preparing my first turkey, with giblet gravy. That was...gulp, 20 years ago. Since then, I have probably hosted a solid 15 Thanksgiving dinners, though I would have a hard time differentiating many. There was the year my roommate and I cooked for 30 people. There was the year I never put on pants (drunk by 3, I wore tights and an oversized crushed velvet shirt, ok?). There was the year we all made crowns out of construction paper and pipe cleaners. There was the one year, out of 20, that I flew home to my family in Connecticut and had to prepare a kosher meal for my sister and her boyfriend. That means no butter. On Thanksgiving.
There were a few Thankgiving meals built around impressing some momentary crush, and when I was in a relationship there were several successful years of teamwork that made our table a highly coveted invitation. But you know what? It does get old. After hosting a party of 14 on my own last year, I found myself embattled with guilt and resentment. Guilt for not inviting my ex, resentment towards my guests who were supposed to assuage my guilt. The ones who came early, the ones who came late. The ones who brought exactly what I asked them to bring and more and did the dishes but failed to put the pots back in the right place. I caught Hostess Fatigue, a big dose of tryptophan for my patience, and I haven't quite recovered.
My best friend Heather, who was at a majority of the last 15 years worth of Thanksgivings, flies out to Portland tomorrow while her boyfriend drives up from San Francisco. This year, rather than signing up for indignation, I'm keeping it to a comfortable party of three. Normally, I am creating excel spreadsheets in September with columns for smoked seafood to dessert wines. I was thinking of foregoing the turkey altogether for nachos and white russians, but my conscience wouldn't allow it. Instead, I ordered the smallest bird from New Seasons, decided on some sides, and rolled out a pie crust. This year's menu took me an evening in front of the TV. I'll wake up early enough on Thursday to jog in Forest Park. Active cooking time will be under 2 hours, which feels sacrilege. But also unencumbered, which I could get used to.