Thanksgiving is great. Not only is it a smorgasbord, but it’s a smorgasbord with pride. We embrace our inner Dionysus without relinquishing our inner Apollo. The only problem with Thanksgiving is being with your family. Sooner or later, especially when the booze starts flowing, families begin to communicate. And not just about the weather or work, but real issues. “Why does mom seem depressed?” “Uncle Ben sure looks like shit.” “Yeah, I’ve been pretending not to notice Aunt Janice’s limp, too.”
Deep issues always exist right below the surface of conversation. It’s part of being a family. It’s part of life. A great way to avoid dealing with these issues (without converting to Mormonism) is to host a foodie Thanksgiving. A needlessly elaborate Thanksgiving is a distraction from the festering pot of hatred that is your family.
For instance, if you deep fry your turkey—which is a foodie recipe if you’re not from the South—the irony will distract everyone from their depression and anxiety.
Lesson One: Paying homage to people who are poorer than you is a great reminder that you’re better than them.
A foodie Thanksgiving also makes meal preparation more complicated than necessary. You’ll need every family member to help. Families are less likely to air grievances when peeling sweet potatoes by hand, slicing them to optimize surface area-to-volume ratio, and then driving to the Sri Lankan bazaar halfway across town to find a spice that literally has snake oil in it.
Lesson Two: Foodies are only two degrees of dork from Trekkies, so they know a thing or two about distraction through mindless obsession.
Speaking of a Sri Lankan bazaar, a good way to compound the numbing impact of a foodie Thanksgiving is to use ethnic ingredients. It will convince you and your family that you’re experiencing another culture.
Lesson Three: Foodies eat their cake and have it too when it comes to being open to new cultures. It’s self-indulgent without really experiencing the silliness of a culture that isn’t our own.
If none of the above distractions work—and mom starts to look like she’s finally going to admit to herself, and so to everyone else, that dad is having an affair with his secretary—simply remind everyone that the family, by trying new foods, is being adventurous.
Lesson Four: Restating a hobby as an adventure hides the fact that your life is boring. It’s easier to convince yourself that going to a new restaurant is an adventure than to actually go on a real adventure. This rationalization and subsequent repression will get mom to shut up just as well as making her go skydiving.
And don’t worry if your family is going to hate the food of your foodie Thanksgiving. As long as you present dishes in a fun way, and talk about how they’re borne from recipes by some guy on TV whose writers give him something witty to say, they’ll eat everything up, literally and figuratively. Let’s say your papaya casserole tastes like shit (which it probably does);just tell everyone that it’s a big, important recipe and only people with the most refined tastes will appreciate it.
Evolutionarily, our senses are designed to spit out anything that isn’t poisonous or rotten. Beyond not dying, neither humans nor any other animal really care what food tastes like. We would drink our own piss if it wasn’t socially unacceptable.
Coffee, for instance, has more than 700 aromas, but our olfactory receptors can only detect two of them, maybe three. We can, however, tell ourselves we detect the other 697 when we want to avoid detecting the 697 reasons life is pointless.
Lesson Five: It’s fun to pretend that we have refined senses, because that’s the only way to have refined senses.
Lesson Six: We’re all tied to the train tracks of life, and the train is coming. To distract ourselves from this impending death, even the strongest men forgo work for tasks. This may be futile, but like drama, it can be psychologically healthy. Thanksgiving is a good time to indulge in distraction, because if the train metaphor applies to anything besides death, it’s the train (wreck) that is family.