Thanksgiving Anarchy

The grand dame all nicely tanned

By Eileen O’Toole | Updated May 8, 2021

In my opinion, turkey, stuffing, spuds, dressing, beans are some of the easiest things you can cook for the masses of people that sit around your Thanksgiving table. This food is forgiving, nothing is too last minute, and most basic cooks can get the meal together without too much fuss. It is the exact same menu every year, and of course it’s good, but cooking Thanksgiving dinner bores me.

I love hosting Thanksgiving, but the meal is a drag because this is the one meal I cook a year that has so many restrictions placed on it and me as the cook.

In my family, you don’t mess with dressing, or turkey or even the innocuous green beans. Same recipe, every year. Same threats from my family every year too, threats of revolution and anger at the slightest whisper of switching anything up. Which is odd considering I come from a family of culinary explorers.

So this year I am fantasizing about Thanksgiving anarchy. Fantasizing about other festive things I could make for a crowd that would be just as delicious and just as spectacular as the grand dame nicely tanned in the center of the Thanksgiving table.

Something difficult, with flavors that takes you away to another place. Something that no one has tasted before and maybe won’t ever again. To Sri Lanka for heady homemade curry chicken wrapped in warm, just out of the oven naan. Steamed bao with Five Spice infused duck, or a Venison Sobaheg with Johnny Cakes to sop up the rich, thick stew.

Risky culinary fantasies that would challenge tradition while satisfying my guests just as much as the usual Thanksgiving fare. A risk I would relish taking.

A risk that is too big, I think. A risk that bucks food traditions, one that forces people to think differently, to accept change, all to make my Thanksgiving kitchen experience more entertaining.

Maybe there are reasons we have traditions and maybe messing with the turkey, and the Thanksgiving meal is not the place to challenge anyone’s sense of well-being. Maybe it’s not a day to toss out coveted traditions that tie people, places, and memories together, not only at our own tables but most of the tables across this country.

On this day, the implications of tossing out the turkey seem greater than my own stifled culinary desires. Implications that push me to find another time for duck bao, homemade Naan, and rib-sticking stew.

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