Archive for Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Life Lites

Thanksgiving meal a slice of Americana

November 24, 2004

I remember vividly the day I became aware of an American holiday called Thanksgiving. It was November 1983. I had just been accepted to study in the United States. Before coming, I had to go to the American embassy in Malaysia to get my visa. I lived in a suburb of the capital city, and to get to the American embassy I had to travel to the farthest point in the city from where I lived. That meant driving through traffic like you would experience in Los Angles or New York. Mind you, Kansas City's traffic doesn't even come close.
I rode my motorcycle on that ominous day in November and took that long journey through the city to take my next step of coming to America. After about an hour-and --a-half commute, I arrived at the embassy, mentally exhausted and fatigued from the long ride through horrendous traffic.
I was so ready to get the paperwork done, as it was my last step in coming to the United States. As I walked up to the gate of the embassy, something seemed amiss. There was not the usual hustle and bustle at the main entrance. Then I read the notice. "Closed to observe Thanksgiving." My heart sank and I was upset. "What the heck is Thanksgiving? What are these Americans thinking about? No one in Malaysia celebrates Thanksgiving," I said aloud.
I was so disappointed that I had traveled all that way only to find that some obscure holiday, on a weekday, prevented me from completing my business. I left the embassy, disgusted at America for observing such an obscure holiday. All I could think of was the long ride I had to take back. I hate long-distance driving.
Obviously, I don't consider Thanksgiving an obscure holiday anymore. Unfortunately for me and many others, it still involves long-distance travel. My Thanksgivings now required me to drive 14 hours to Milwaukee.
As I understood the meaning of Thanksgiving, I began to appreciate the holiday and the tradition it has.
I also have some observations about this holiday that I find amusing. I love to eat and this holiday provides many of us with this indulgence. It fascinates me how this feast can consume the lifestyle for a whole weekend. We look forward with anticipation for the big turkey dinner, but most of us are stuffed, no pun intended, after just one serving because we have been nibbling or snacking through the day. It's interesting how on Thanksgiving Day we can just have one meal and be satisfied, but on other days we have to have the regular three meals plus snacks.
I have noticed that most people dress up for the meal, but when the meal is done most either change into sweats or loosen the belt. Why not dress comfortable to begin with? After all, we are among family and friends.
Then there is the big dilemma of leftovers. Everyone tries to find creative ways to get rid of the excess turkey. The most creative recipe that I have had for leftover turkey was turkey chili or turkey stir-fry. If that sounds enticing, e-mail me for the recipe.
By the way, why do we have to buy a whole turkey? Most families carve up the turkey and serve it sliced. Wouldn't it be easier to just get a turkey breast? That would also limit the leftover dilemma. Is the sight of a whole turkey being cooked a part of this holiday ritual?
Many businesses close the day after Thanksgiving, and many people take that day off. Why we still have some non-service businesses open on that day is beyond reason. Of course the day after signifies the beginning of Christmas season. Big savings are to be had on this day, especially if on your day off, instead of sleeping in, you decide to get up at the crack of dawn to get to the early bird sale. This is the day when most women flock to the shopping malls and the men flock to the television to watch football and eat leftovers.
The day after Thanksgiving is usually the day when radio stations start playing Christmas music. I love Christmas songs and eagerly wait for that day. This year, some radio stations have already started playing 24 hours of Christmas music since Halloween. How many Christmas songs are there to keep playing over and over again? I fear that this year I might get burned out on Christmas music.
The worst of Thanksgiving is yet to come for some. The drive home. Imagine picking yourself up after a long weekend of indulgence and having to sit behind the wheel for a long haul. When you get back, you feel bloated and tired from the weekend of indulgence and have to get ready to resume normal activities the next day.
Despite all that, the time we spend with family, reminiscing days gone by or just "chillin" with one another, is worth it. So, for all you who have to drive long distance, I sympathize with you. To my neighbors, the Dennises and the Fawcetts, I envy your six-minute drive to your destination. Maybe next year you'll adopt me and save me the 14-hour drive.
To all of you in Eudora and especially those who read my column, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for doing so. For those of you who have shared some very kind words about my articles, I am truly thankful and humbled by your encouragement. I wish all of Eudora a happy turkey-eating, football-watching, Christmas-shopping, gaining-a-couple of-pounds weekend.

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