Are you prepared to give away a portion of your feast this Thanksgiving? I’m not talking about the soup kitchen, the church potluck, or even your lonely next-door neighbor. If you lived in Korea, you would fix a nice plateful or two of turkey and dressing and take a walk to … the graveyard. I’m not sure how the dead, lacking useable lips and pallets, are expected to enjoy the feast. Personally, I wouldn’t wait around to observe.
Perhaps you have Vietnamese heritage and your children are practicing the lion dance. Yeah, I have boys, too. They practice all year. Or you are preparing moon-cakes to celebrate the moon, bringer of the harvest. Or you’re having an oil massage like the people of India do to prepare for Thanksgiving.
Sorry husbands, I think a plane full of women just left for India.
Ah… perhaps you have some bread all chunked into little cubes, sitting on the countertop until it’s dry beyond edible. After awhile, you plan to dump milk and some raw eggs on it, throw in a dash of everything in your spice cupboard, stir it until it gloops like a pair of rubber boots traipsing through a sticky barnyard, and then stuff it into the body cavities of a freshly slaughtered fowl. Sound more like it?
I set out to write an article on strange customs of Thanksgiving in other lands, but the problem is, not much sounds as unreasonable as some of our own customs.
Even if you have escaped the love of stuffing, dressing or filling, perhaps you still have the Canadian penchant for Jello. We begin with a product made of “long, stringy animal-based proteins called collagen,” according to LIVESCIENCE. We flavor it with colors and sweeteners, let it set until it’s the consistency of a half-cooked snail, suspend all kinds of fruits and vegetables in the floating mass, and call it salad. Some of us add some form of processed milk that’s been through various stages of rot to enhance it.
How could I call a moon cake, made of duck eggs and lotus seed paste, strange?
In many cultures, heirloom treasures are unwrapped and polished and set in prominent places on feast days. In my home, I will cover up a perfectly lovely, though somewhat dinted, wooden family treasure with a grease-spattered linen cloth. The plates of turkey, stuffing, squash and mashed potatoes will then be strategically placed to cover these grease drippings of spent feasts. We will sit at this table, clutching miniscule rice-paper artwork in our laps during the meal, and use these delicate tissues to wipe our turmeric-stained faces when we finish. This, we are convinced, is cultured.
On Thanksgiving morning, Canadians bask in a hot shower, unaware they are part of a five per cent minority who enjoys that luxury. We spend the hours until dinner complaining about road closures and the refusal of nature to meet our demands for sun every weekend of the summer past.
As we gather at the table, we will be reminded to name something in life we can be thankful for. Some of us will wring our rice-paper artwork into wrinkles as we struggle to identify a blessing. When the meal is over, we will continue our litany of complaint for the other 364 days and 23 hours of the year.
But for that one hallowed hour at dinner, Canada will be thankful. In spite of soggy bread and floating vegetables. That makes the gathering around the Thanksgiving table a very