Friday, November 23, 2012

The meta-reality of Thanksgiving cooking & the death of Patriarchy

It is that blissful time: the day after Thanksgiving when other are jostling their way through shops with deals to die for, the day when the house is full of flowers and fruit and the gorgeous detritus of yesterday's festivities, the bliss of the radio spouting recipes for leftovers and college ballgames, the dogs on their best behaviour and fat from greasy gizzards and under the table snacks, the children sleeping off their turkey comas. The light is clear and pure and I've just read this piece in the New York Times on the possibility that we may be oblivious to the extraordinary (On Being Not Dead)  If you read nothing else today, read this. The link is there thanks to my friend A, who is in London, and who pays attention to the world. We share a similar propensity for choosing our beds over showing a miserable face to the world, and as such, I believe, she sees things that are important, things that should be paid attention to.  I wonder often if this condition could be given a new name, a name other than the D word, some a little bit more creative perhaps? Allowing, if you will, that this disposition has a positive side to it, an ability perhaps to feel and see things that others don't.

Some of you will stop reading now.

But stay with me if you can.  Is there, in truth, another way we can describe this way of dealing with the world, beyond the choosing happiness that occurs every morning, beyond the every day discussion of life and death and the ebb and flow of the human condition, a way of seeing things that perhaps elevates them to bring more meaning to our lives?

Perhaps this is what Plato was talking about with his cave.

Perhaps if Plato had been standing in the kitchen watching his son and girlfriend making a pumpkin cheesecake and debating the relative merits of a water bath, his mother watching from the sidelines and offering advice on wrapping cake tins in tin foil, while the daughter is rolling out pate brisee and he, himself, had potatoes going into a ricer at a rate of knots, would he have been able to step back and look at this domestic scene and say, yes, this is something to remember? This -- even the dog on the table eating the contents of the bacon pan which is cooling outside and the soundtrack of Billy Joel and Elton John which we all sing along too as the mother, the matriarch does an interpretive jazz dance to "Let It Be" while complaining of having to hold on to a chair for balance, smiling from ear to ear -- is what we remember. These moments which bind us together, which allow us, generation to generation, to appreciate each other, foibles and warts, and half naked.

I am struck also by the strong line of women that have come from the overwhelmingly patriarchal family I grew up in. I watched my daughter pick up a glass and raise a toast, and my mother sat next to her, and around the table of twelve only three men, and it was okay.  How I grew up -- and this is what formed me and for better or worse I am actually grateful for how it worked out -- girls did not have opinions that were paid attention to. It is hard now to imagine this. I am not sure that my political, opinionated, brilliant debater of a seventeen year old can even begin to visualize what it is to not have a voice, when her voice is bold and bright and listened to, but it is the reality I lived in and my mother lived in. Around the table yesterday all vestiges of that previous phenomenon were gone.

This was the first year that I made a turkey on my own.  And it was great.  I even stitched up its neck after filling it with a herby sausage stuffing (the chest cavity was empty but for an onion and some thyme).  "Can you carve?" I asked my son. "Oh, so you're going back the old chauvinistic paradigm?" he says, smiling at me broadly. It's true. I grew up in a house where women cooked and men carved. (However, my father was an excellent cook). I wanted him to learn to carve I suppose. I honestly didn't want to do it myself. Rather someone else mess up than me! But he did, beautifully. He took off the breasts and sliced them onto a tray and then carved the dark meat along side it, flat-leafed parsley surrounding it all, the neck sausage perfectly done. This was my first turkey. It was cooked simply -- skin covered in a little butter, some salt, and a cheese cloth placed over it. We basted it three or four times. So, essentially, it was a like a roast chicken, a very large and delicious roast chicken (shout out to Lindy & Grundy, my favorite butchers).
But you know what, it wasn't so bad. It was our first Thanksgiving at home since the children's father moved out (last year I played nice and went to the family celebration). "Wow," said my daughter. "The first Thanksgiving that I didn't want to poke myself in the eye because of all the stress."  Yes. An accomplishment indeed. A lot to be grateful for.


ganching said...

You painted a lovely picture as did Bill Hayes in the NYT article. Thank you.

mogull said...

Well put... bravo!

AQ: said...

PENSIVE is my word choice ;) xo

LPC said...

I too come from Patriarchy with a big P. Amazing it's taken 40 years since women first announced Liberation. Cheers to your daughter, and now to you.