Thanksgiving has become a weird holiday for me. It used to always involve going to the lodge at Camp Wakonda with my extended family, avoiding relatives that I rarely saw with my siblings and first cousins, trying to stuff as many of my Grandma's butterhorns down my throat as humanly possible, hiking back to a cave to look for the gold of Jesse James, and playing the loudest most ridiculous games of Pit. It was pretty fantastic.
Recent years, however, I have not made it back for this tradition. In college, I worked at a clothing store and had to be present for Black Friday, I took the opportunity of a week off and went to Barcelona with my friend Katie, I studied abroad in Greece, and my traditional Thanksgivings were replaced by hordes of shoppers and The Mediterranean.
Post-college I found out what a rarity it is to have a week off for Thanksgiving. Due to distance and time constraints, the family gathering was out yet again. Several of my friends from college were in a similar situation, so we formed our own little Thanksgiving. One year in Chicago was hosted by my friends Jeff and Jake and catered wonderfully by my friend Katie, whose previous cooking experience consisted of almost setting our apartment on fire making patatas bravas for her Spanish class. Heaped with wine, Katie's grade school songs, and video confessionals of our doubts of the chef's abilities, we had a fantastic holiday--no fires, delicious food.
Last year, the four of us reunited in Louisville and were joined by my friends Madhu and Emily. Traditional fare, an abundance of wine, multiple games of Celebrity (with Madhu consistently ignoring the rules), karaoke, and horse racing dominated the holiday. Thoroughly lovely, maybe excluding the wine-dreidel-drinking game we devised in a fit of ill-conceived creativity.
My tradition has become doing something nontraditional. Luckily, this is much easier than keeping with tradition.
Most traditional Thanksgiving elements were out this year, because of the oven-absence and limited time. These limitations didn't hinder me. I'm not one to skip celebrating a holiday, even if the outcome has minimal resemblance to general associations.
Chili-rubbed, roasted chickens were procured, partially for their resemblance to a turkey, but in larger part because the smell and sight of these crimson fowl roasting across the street from my apartment had been tormenting me for weeks. Also, the friendly proprietress agreed to have them warm and waiting for us when we returned from work. And people say Thanksgiving preparations are stressful. Pshaw.
The birds were fetched, some rice was sent along, a vat of my potato soup was prepared, carrots and squash were sautéed, and our lovely compañera, Flor, brought lovely, golden flan for dessert. To round out the Oaxacan and Mexican elements, mezcal and tequila were abundantly supplied.
There was feasting, there was music, there was a general fowl and potato induced ebullience. It was thoroughly delicious. And while I miss my old traditions, family, and friends, I am very thankful for non-traditions, new friends, and to be in Mexico. (I was avoiding turning mawkish as long as possible, I swear, but I find it is inevitable when talking of Thanksgiving.)