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Inspire - Posted October 25, 2013 11:29 a.m.
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Confessions of a Thanksgiving Scrooge

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I have loathed Thanksgiving for pretty much as long as I can remember.

It’s not that I’m not thankful. I am totally thankful. I am fully aware of all the wonderful things in my life, and I try to give thanks for them every day. Ordinarily, I would leap at an excuse to dress up and polish my grandmother’s china. And still, Thanksgiving Day brings out the worst in me.

Maybe it was the miserable stomach virus that plagued me on more than one Thanksgiving Day as a child. Maybe it's that I never really acquired a taste for turkey. I don't hate it or anything. But I'd probably rather have a steak. I do, however, hate giblet gravy, with its chunks of... giblets. Then there’s the regional/cultural/generational debate over whether it's called dressing or stuffing and if it should be made with bread or cornbread or chestnuts or cranberries. All those decisions stress me out.

Honestly, I am normally not a picky eater. But there's just something about Thanksgiving that sends my inner 4-year-old out to bang her fork on the table and demand something other than what everyone else is having.

It’s at about that moment when I also have to silence the haughty voice in my head that wants to wag her finger at everyone and lecture them on how our “traditional” Thanksgiving isn't really traditional at all. According to the Smithsonian Institute, most of the items that find their way to our modern Thanksgiving table weren't even present when the pilgrims and Native Americans had that fateful first feast, anyway. That menu would've included seafood, wildfowl, grains and corn, but not ham, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.

Perhaps, my holiday lamenting is about the very thought of spending eight hours in a hot kitchen only to consume the meal in 15 minutes, and then face another hour or two of cleanup. If labor laws applied to private homes, everyone would be eating pizza on Thanksgiving.

There are also the nagging logistics of deciding what to cook and when so everything is ready at about the same time, and is hot and fresh despite having only one oven in which to bake 12 dishes.

Or it could be the dreaded after-dinner boredom, which sets in when all the cooking, cleaning and feasting have ended and I discover the men have taken control of one TV, and the world will come to an end if they can’t watch the Cowboys. It’s at that point I trod off to find another TV and discover the only other acceptable thing to watch would be a “The Andy Griffith Show” marathon.

When I was a teenager, I vowed as an adult to boycott all things Thanksgiving and order pizza. Not that I have a particular hankering for pizza. It's just that pizza is so quick and easy and very anti-Thanksgiving. But then I grew up and quickly figured out two things were wrong with that plan: Pizza joints are closed on Thanksgiving. And everybody else wants to eat turkey. This is why pizza joints are closed on Thanksgiving.

Eventually, my dreams of pizza morphed into threats of a Thanksgiving Day enchilada feast. For at least the past five years, I have vowed to serve enchiladas at Thanksgiving right alongside the turkey. And yet, not once has anything remotely resembling enchiladas made it to my holiday table. I add all the enchilada fixings to my shopping list. Sometimes I even purchase them. And then when it's time to actually prepare the dreaded dinner, I short circuit. In other words, I become overwhelmed and wimp out, forging ahead with the traditional fare.

Through the years, instead of making my ideal version of Thanksgiving dinner a reality, I've tried every way possible to reinvent everyone else's. There's always a new take on green bean casserole or macaroni and cheese to try, and 45 different ways to prepare a turkey.

One year, we had the Thanksgiving buffet at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. I have to admit, the Cajun turkey was amazing. But even for all my harping about doing something different for Thanksgiving, it just felt odd to eat out on the holiday – not to mention the long wait and enormous crowd, which turned out to be about as exhausting as just cooking dinner myself.

Then there was the Thanksgiving I made all vegan dishes (well, except for the free range, organic turkey, of course). This meal will forever remain in infamy in our family and each year, at least one wise crack is made about the meal which wasn't exactly a disaster, but still wasn't quite right, either.

Last year, I told everyone I was making only frozen dishes – nothing from scratch. For weeks, I lorded over them tales of Banquet turkey TV dinners. I don't think they really bought it, knowing I would be too chicken to pull off such a scheme anyway. And once again, it was back in the kitchen for more holiday chaos.

As it turns out, the joke may well be on me. I've been a bona fide adult for a very long time. Yet year after year, I continue to participate in preparing a traditionally modern Thanksgiving Day meal, despite having long ago vowing to rebel against it. Maybe that’s because I don’t really loathe Thanksgiving. Maybe I secretly enjoy the challenge it presents. Maybe I actually look forward to reinventing it – and myself – year after year. And maybe, just maybe, if you promise not to tell anyone, I would admit I already have this year’s menu plotted out on a Pinterest board – it’s one of my secret ones. I have a Thanksgiving-loathing reputation to protect, after all.

by April Brownlee

April is a freelance writer and professional fundraiser. She spends her free time reading, obsessing over reality TV, fashion, food and politics, and writing about the antics of life with a husband, three kids, two dogs, a beta fish and a dwarf frog.
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