Friday, November 28, 2008
When I was younger, like 15 or so years ago, I was always labeled as the baby, the bratty one, the moody one, or whatever other label associated with the amalgam of being the youngest, being female, and being self- absorbed and self-fish. Over the years I'd like to think I've matured a bit, at the very least become more tolerable at the dinner table. At Thanksgiving, I've learned that I've accomplished neither.
This year, Thanksgiving was held at my brother's new home in North Carolina. It would be the first time he's hosted TG dinner for the family, as well as a first Christensen TG ever. Since we've moved to the States 18 years ago, it took our family a few years to get up to speed on the American holiday (what is up with all the ugly Turkey decals on the store windows?), and another decade to really give a shit about participating in its festivities. Each year we typically housed hopped separately, me, most likely with the family of the boyfriend at the moment, my mom, having a stir-fry and a cackle fest with her Asian Alliance friends, and Rich, was, I don't know, where was Rich? My friends and past boyfriends have always been so welcoming to me at their dinners, but after years of feeling like the random Asian orphan at the dinner table, I was just tired of making polite table conversation with someone else's Grandma. I didn't want to pretend I was enjoying playing I Spy with all the little cousins at the kiddie table. I didn't want to politely offer my help in the kitchen, where I have no business, and definitely did not want to offer to help clean up afterwards. I wanted to be somewhere where I could eat turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, and immediately lay on the couch afterwards with my hand in my pants. I had hoped for all of this at my brother's.
Thanksgiving morning, with massive hangover, we watched the Macy's Parade, and then I quietly slipped away, back in bed, when I heard the pans being brought out. An hour later I woke up to the sounds of vacuuming, rolled over, shut my eyes as tightly as possible, and forced myself back to sleep. A couple hours after that, I woke up, absolutely disoriented. Is it Friday? Had I completely missed Thanksgiving? I better go downstairs and find out. I found my brother outside with the deep fryer for the turkey completely set up. The house was spotless. I turned the corner of the kitchen hoping everything was already cooked and ready to serve. I saw my brother's wife and asked in my best fake sincere voice, "Do you need any help? Did I miss it?" She looked at me incredulously. Obviously, I had missed all the cleaning and setting up they did. Unfortunately, I had woken up just in time to help cooking. Shitballs! "What do you need me to do?" I said in my most unconvincing how can I help voice, trying my best to hint at the strong undertones of, "I really, really, would prefer to do nothing." Again, no such luck. "Which would you prefer to make," she asked,"the pumpkin pie or the yams?" Well, neither really, I replied, but since yams are gross, I'll make the pie. She pointed me towards the pie ingredients. I asked her if she realized that pies only go for about $6.99 at the supermarket and that they're rather tasty. Especially in comparison to the time and effort it takes to make one from scratch, and the finished product that I would have been able to produce, despite my best efforts. She ignored my reasoning. In a span of 30 minutes I went from blissfully sleeping on my brother's futon to being in charge of making the pie, yams, and mashed potatoes all from scratch. She handed me a 5 pound bag of potatoes and said, "Peel." I was elbow deep in potato peels when I said, "Hey look, ha ha, I feel like I'm in the army now. Stuck with potato peeling duty." She looked over at me as if to ask me why I wasn't wearing my helmet, not amused, answered, "We don't do that in the army." Right. OK.
I've always been convinced that I'm rather intelligent, smarter than everyone, actually, but if my IQ test was based solely on my kitchen skills, I am, in fact, a certified retard. I had dropped an aluminum can top into the pie mixture, and didn't realize it, until my mom, being her usual meddlesome self, decided to take a stir. I would add milk to the mixture and then 2 seconds later forget whether or not I had added milk and added more just in case I didn't. I would bring the mixture bowl closer to the trash can so that when I finished cracking the egg I could quickly toss out the shell without dripping a trail of whites on the floor. Instead, I got momentarily distracted and cracked the egg in to the trash can. I would whine about how much faster and easier it would be to peel the potatoes had they bought genetically engineered potatoes as opposed to lumpy, pocky, misshaped, organic potatoes that come a fourth smaller.
Adding to the list of my incompetence in the kitchen, including the incident during my last visit when I wound up getting guacamole on their ceiling, is my incompetence in life in general. The proof being the destruction I continue to cause to their only 4 month old home and its contents. During dinner, two nights earlier, I managed to spill my red wine all over their table, rug, and of all places, their wall. Once again, I stood staring at my destruction, dumbfounded. The day before that, I was sitting on their couch, petting their adorable new kitten, when she decided to projectile vomit on me and all over the couch and carpet. "What did you do to her?" my brother's wife immediately asks, not at all disguising her accusatory tone. I was just petting her! I swear!
Aside from being forced into kitchen labor by my brother's wife, I have to say this was my best Thanksgiving dinner yet. I was with all the people that I love the most in the world. I didn't have to make stupid small talk. I didn't have to pretend that I didn't mind helping out. I didn't have to force down an extra helping of Aunt So and So's pie, just to spare her feelings. (My mom sat in front of my pumpkin pie for close to 30 minutes. Rich's friend finally took it away from her and said, "just because your daughter made it, doesn't mean you have to eat it"). After dinner, trying to carry some of the weight, I told them, it's OK, I'll clean. Everyone looked at me, surprised. I, too, was surprised that those words had voluntarily left my mouth. "Who am I kidding," I reneged, "Mom will clean." As I looked around the table, at the way everyone was looking at me, I realized I had been given a new label. I had become that guest. The one whose company you may have missed while she's away, but completely exhausts you while she's around, and you just can't wait until she leaves, so that you can put your valuables out again.
Meet The Christensens
The boys, the turkey, and the deep fryer. Instructions on deep fryer read: If not assembled properly, explosion may occur. Before lowering the turkey, my brother said, "You may want to step back."
Hello Kitty at the parade to promote more Asian viewership.
My pumkin pie, a striking resemblance to Lexie's cat food.
Time: Immediately after dinner.
Posted by Nina at 3:27 PM