Editors Note: The Following Series “Food, Tradition, and Reflections this Thanksgiving” is a week-long series curated by Alexandra Greengrass as part of the Digital Research Internship Program in partnership with ViaNolaVie. The Digital Research Internship Program is a Newcomb Institute technology initiative for undergraduate students combining technology skillsets, feminist leadership, and the digital humanities.
There’s no better time to reflect on the holiday season as we quickly approach Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving is a time for family, food, and tradition; and while the stereotypical image of turkey dinners and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade might pop into mind for some, for others that image could not be further from reality. This curation will first focus on the unique Thanksgiving traditions of New Orleanians, before looking at some holiday season considerations. There’s nowhere more interesting to focus on the role of “food” in Thanksgiving, living in both the country’s gastronomical hub and largest food desert.
The following article, originally published on November 22, 2018 by Meredith L. Graf, celebrates the holiday traditions and memories that we never forget, and the people that make Thanksgiving so special and indelible to our perceptions of family and celebration.
“Reasons to not kill me (a turkey):
I have six kids,
chickens taste better,
Oh look, another turkey is over there!”
I wrote the above joke to my grandma in the 2nd grade, and she still puts it out every Thanksgiving Day. Our Thanksgiving always takes place at her house, and it’s a day when our bellies are full and new memories are forming.
A week before the date, I always help my grandma set up for the holiday with my other cousins. With eight cousins, all being close in age, and all growing up in New Orleans together, that means when we get together, it’s a party. When we were younger our holidays together consisted of outside games or old board games inside, but the adult dinner table was the real show. The adults were always in a separate room so whatever “the kids” did for about two hours was not supervised.
The kids table is all laughs. One of best times was when we got spray butter. We loved the spray butter. It started out with an innocent spray on bread, but them we realized that the butter could be sprayed in the air. That, of course, lead us to throwing the bread in the air to spray the butter on it mid fly. Our aims were not all that accurate, so the butter ended up on our hands, faces, and pants. The parents suspected nothing.
Although, that butter was nothing compared with the Thanksgiving when we received candles. With that little light burning bright, all we could see was the candies on the table and all we could wonder about was: How do you think each piece burns? We found out.
Better than all the candle chemistry and butter spraying was watching the family argue. While we had our fun, we waited for someone to bring up politics or a debatable subject in the other room. Our cue was to come into the room and watch the show when someone yelled, “You are wrong”, “Just wait”, “Can you just hear me?”, or “I am leaving!” The original question was probably, “What do you think about … ?” or “Did you hear what … said?”
There was a giant blowout over whether a left-handed baseball pitcher gets an extra step closer to the first base. As a child I had no idea why my grandfather and uncle would argue over what seemed so trivial to me, but when my grandpa left the house to go cool down at a gas station, I knew it meant something huge to them.
There were board games and made-up rules and small arguments over who won what, and as I get older, I’ve realized how the conversations in my family have changed. The talk began at what we wanted for Christmas to how the last year has been for us. And now being a life insurance agent, I see the small things do not matter. In my job, I hear about everyone else’s family. I hear about the ups. I hear especially about the downs, but I know how to treat each case as if I was a treating them like they were family. Through both family and business, people will surprise you–good and ugly–and that promises do not change but people do.
Thanksgiving comes every year, and it is more than just a holiday where we stuff our stomaches. It’s a holiday that can fill our lives with reminders of what to be thankful for, what to let got, and what we should always keep in our memories and hearts.