This past Thanksgiving was my second annual “Family Thanksgiving” with the Troy NY crew. Last year the pie almost killed me, and this year was not especially different. Kevin Marshall, a good friend of mine and Times Union blogger, wrote this post on it, which I have reprinted here in its entirety without permission from the author. WHAT NOW, KEVIN?
Note – I’m devoting the entire week to my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, and all of the stories that came out of this year’s celebration. While I hope yours was a pleasant one, I don’t really care. Be quiet and read about my life.
So, without further adieu, the first installment of TALES OF THANKGSIVING!
This Thanksgiving weekend, I was brought into a new tradition that encourages the celebration of friendships both old and new, as well as one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
It’s called “Family Thanksgiving.”
I was invited by two friends of mine from High School, Bob and Eitan. Both of them were runners throughout their youths and, as a result, are blessed with a metabolism that drives me into a jealous rage. They’ll sit and discuss their recent eating excursions, which include things like ice cream and dozens of greasy Gus’s hot dogs, while I skip gravy and stuffing.
If you were at the Troy Turkey Trot on Thursday, Bob was dressed as The King.
The tradition goes like this: the Saturday after the proper Thanksgiving dinner meal with family, a group of friends get together for their own meal. The meal contains all the fixings and then some, including duck (which was delicious), and afterwards there’s pie.
Therein lies the catch: nobody can leave until all of the pie is gone, and you must finish what you’re given.
And there’s a LOT of pie. Between 11 of us, we had to finish 9 pies. We had apple, raspberry, pecan (my personal favorite), and many others, but the most daunting was what they ominously referred to as Cereal Pie. It was one of the first pies being served and…well, to put it kindly, it looked like something that was made to provide punishment rather than pleasure.
Due to prior engagements, I arrived late and was finishing up the actual meal itself as the first slices were being served. I finished my food and started asking questions about that cereal pie; questions like “are those lucky charms?” and “are those Golden Grahams?” and “…that’s not mayonnaise, right?”
I took my first bite, though, and was pleasantly surprised. I was not repulsed! Granted, it’s not something I would ever voluntarily eat, but it was actually a somewhat pleasant experience.
As the evening wore on, we greeted each new pie with a strange combination of amusement and dread, sort of like getting your friends together to watch “Human Centipede.” More than one person asked why they kept doing this every year.
Well, because it’s tradition.
And folks, that’s what Thanksgiving is really all about. It’s not just saying “boy, I’m so happy I’m here and in America and Pilgrims and Indians and apple pie and God and the Bible.” It’s also about making sacrifices and other people making you do things you don’t like doing. This is especially true when extended family gets invited to the meal. You’re bound to be stuck talking to at least one person you would rather didn’t exist, or be a captive audience to an awkward conversation resulting from hostilities stretching back twenty years with an origin that’s been lost to time.
It also brings us together. On Thanksgiving Day, once the meal’s finished and the clean up begins, we can convene in separate rooms and reflect on those things that make the other members of our family so…special. Then, days later, we get together with friends, share a meal and nine pies, and trade stories with friendly company that does not have the context of our family dysfunctions, but finds them amusing none the less. There is comfort and solace in that company, and we find those common threads that unite us all as a people. After all, when it comes to things like family and guilt and self-loathing, the Jews and the Irish really are the same people separated by Jesus.
After the last pie was served, I noticed that the man responsible for bringing me along for this tradition had a plate full of what looked like a pie prepared by Jackson Pollack. Shame was brought upon him and, just like a real family, we badgered him for his failures and made passive-aggressive comments until he finished his plate later that evening.
When he did finish, though, we applauded and breathed a sigh of relief that the night was over. Then we gave thanks in our own way for friends new and old.
As I left, I made a vow to myself to return the next year. In the meantime, I can’t eat pie. Not won’t – can’t. I might not even be able to make it through a pie fight in a Marx Brothers movie without cringing a bit.
But at least that cringe will also bring with it some great memories.