Saturday, November 29, 2008

Essay: Welcome to my Thanksgiving World

I'm visiting my family in Albany, New York, this weekend--I'll blog about my trip when I get back to Vegas. In the meantime, this is something I wrote last year as Thanksgiving approached.

The World of Thanksgiving According to Linda Lou

Thanksgiving is coming and frankly, that's a holiday I can do without. Not that I'm not thankful; in fact, I document my blessings every night in a gratitude journal. I list all the wonderful things that have come to me over the course of the day; if strangers smile or hold the door, I note their acts of kindness. Every hug extended to me, every compliment I receive, every laugh someone incites—I record them all. But don't think I'm that nice. If someone cuts me off in traffic or addresses me in a tone on the fringe of rudeness, I assure you, I will spend the next two weeks plotting their painful demise.

I don't care for Thanksgiving because the day is typically consumed by football and food. Football—yuk! I can't take the racket and I don't understand the game. Fourth down? What the hell is that? And with all the equipment involved, you have no idea what those guys look like—how do you know if you're rooting for the cute ones? At least with baseball you can see exactly what the players have to offer and when a runner crosses home base, the team gets a point. Easy enough.

Although I can usually find a way to remove myself from the Thanksgiving football scene, there's basically no escaping the food. Or the inevitable weight gain. Like every normal American woman, I obsess over my weight and wouldn't dream of stepping on the scales without peeing, blowing my nose, and removing my contacts. Not that I have to worry: I'm one of those annoying people who can eat pretty much whatever I want. Lucky for me, I don't want much.

You see, I'm not a food person. If it were possible, I'd take a vitamin or some kind of energy pill and spare myself the whole ordeal—the cooking, the cleaning up, not to mention shopping for the food in the first place. And now that we're expected to scan our own purchases at the checkout, I enter a grocery store only when I'm out of beer or Starbuck's Java Chip ice cream is on sale. For me, there's no Joy of Cooking; I don't even find particular joy in eating.

I think that's because I'm a picky eater. I was eighteen before I tried cream cheese and thirty-six before I ate a chick pea. One. I won't live long enough to try something like sushi, especially since rumor has it that it's raw fish and I sure as hell want no part of that. Plus, I don't like the sound of it, which is reason enough that it will never traverse my palate. The same goes for tofu. I don't even know what that is—some kind of vegetable maybe? And don't get me going about yogurt. I hear it's alive.

Some people are picky eaters in the way that they consume only organic vegetables or raw foods or ocean-fed salmon. Please… I'm not that big a pain in the ass. It's okay for me to say that; one of my best friends is a vegetarian.

"Oh, good—I love hotdogs!" I exclaimed last Saturday afternoon as our waitress set two wieners in front of me. Deb winced, as she often does when we have a bite together.

"Let me get this right," she said. "You refuse to eat a banana, but have no problem with ground pig anuses."

I nodded. "You know what else I love? Cheese in a can. It's delicious!"

Deb pressed her palms together in silent prayer while I extracted the celery from my macaroni salad with the precision of a neurologist. "Why would anyone put celery in this?" I asked in disgust.

As if restaurants aren't bad enough, eating at other people's houses is a nightmare for people like me. Even when I was a kid, a simple lunch invitation from a friend prompted a multitude of concerns. Sure, I could eat a sandwich cut vertically instead of diagonally into two triangles, but what if my friend's mother used chunk light tuna instead of solid white? What if it wasn't Bumble Bee brand? What if she mixed it with something other than Hellman's mayonnaise, or put something weird in it, like onions?

The fact is, I found the cooking practices of my friends' mothers downright bizarre. They made spaghetti sauce from actual tomatoes, the kind that farmers and Italians grow in their gardens, and they'd simmer them in a pot for hours. That seemed like a lot of work to me; if they were smart, they'd open a jar of Ragu, like my mother.

Once I was playing at a friend's house and her mother asked her to come in to peel the potatoes. Peel the potatoes? I wondered. What could she mean? My friend then explained this elaborate process that involved washing potatoes, then peeling them, then boiling them for a while, and finally mashing them with some sort of utensil or a hand mixer. I listened in wonder and thought, you gotta be kidding me. My mother could make delicious, creamy potatoes, stirred from a conveniently packaged powdery mix with a fraction of the effort! Hell, she'd bolt off the couch halfway through The Mike Douglas Show and have a meal for a family of seven on the table in the twenty minutes before my father got home. She was a freakin' efficiency expert.

I may not know the difference between a parsnip and a turnip, but I can tell you, you couldn't pay me to eat either one. I've never had a radish or a rutabaga, and the whole notion that food should somehow resemble its natural state is lost on me. But as we approach Thanksgving, I do have to admit I look forward to Mom's Jello. God knows what Jello really is, it's just one of those magic foods that only she can stir.


Todd said...

This is why I read your blog. I couldn't have lived another day without knowing the phrase "ground pig anuses" in reference to hot dogs. I am going to add this to my list of favorite food metaphors. My current favorite is still in calling pulpy orange juice like drinking "a glass full of sea-monkeys" (can't remember where that one came from) but this is a close second.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Yeah, hotdogs really are ground pig anuses, AKA "meat by-products." Thank God you have me to tell you these important things.

linda said...

I really had to laugh at this post. Your first chick pea at 36! So funny. I am one of those dreary eaters that people never invite over. Vegan and low fat - with the odd raw fish thrown in if I cannot face another beany meal.

Sometimes I bring my own food to people's homes.

Like you, I am deeply connected to my scales. I weigh myself ALL THE TIME. Unlike you, I do put on weight easily so I can tell you everything I have eaten for the past two years. I record it all on a computer. I don't care if it is weird, it makes me happy and keeps me lean.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Oh, Linda, I have months of my weight recorded on a white board in my spare bedroom. When people ask what those numbers are, I tell them I'm tracking my IQ.

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