I know that most of the readers of this blog do not know me personally and are probably not aware of what’s going on in my life. So here’s the gist of it: I got a job. Full time and a half with no benefits but still… A job. I work as a First Year Experience Coordinator at my alma mater which means I work with freshmen. 130 freshmen, in fact. There were 135 but I lost a few somewhere along the way. Or more like I could never find them. Part of my duties in this job is to try and help the “Class of 2016” bond as a group and create strong ties to the campus community. How better to do that than with food?
So while my job is an administrative one I’ve tried to make as many of our programs and events include food of some sort. Actually, while typing this section of the post I am supervising a Freshman Study Night and there are enough snacks and hot drink fixings here to sink a small ship. And that’s what I’ve been doing. Enticing young college students into the house of learning with the promise of hot chocolate with whipped cream and fancy biscuits to dunk in it. A lot of the students still don’t seem to realize I get paid to do this. Sometimes I don’t realize I’m getting paid to do this. Then, magically, checks show up on my desk and thus my bank accounts grow.
In years past my family has tried various traditions for Thanksgiving. We never seem to stick to any one. One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories was from while I was living in England and a friend and I decided that life just wouldn’t be the same unless we had a proper Thanksgiving. One of the American professors that the school held a Thanksgiving dinner for the American students but you had to pay and it was vegetarian (my friend was NOT okay with that) and it was missing some seriously major elements: (1) Pecan Pie, (2) meat, (3) participation in the kitchen, (4) our friends.
So my friend and I decided that the only proper thing to do would be have our own Thanksgiving dinner and invite our non-American friends so that they could experience Thanksgiving our way. Not to mention the regular Thanksgiving on campus was ONLY for American students and we didn’t have too many of them in our posse. What is it about groups of Americans in Europe? I swear they aren’t that loud and obnoxious in their own country. We planned dinner for about 15 people. We made our lists, bought our groceries, scrubbed the dorm kitchen so it was usable and asked around campus for all the supplies we’d need like plates, silverware, chairs, etc.
Thanksgiving day comes and we both have class in the morning so nothing can happen until after lunch. That’s when we start hauling stuff over to the dorm from the cafeteria and people start to notice. It’s when we’re carrying over an extra table that a couple other students offer to help us out that we realize we might need to up our numbers for dinner. After all, people are helping us set up for dinner and they’re asking questions about Thanksgiving and we’re telling them it’s about being thankful for everything we have and bringing people together. So within an hour of beginning our preparations we’ve gone from our original 15 guests to around 20 and as the afternoon goes on we’re up to 35 and so we call in some favors and ask some friends to bring us a few more ingredients to make sure we have enough food. We’d apparently planned for everyone on our original guest list to eat until they rolled over dead because we didn’t have to ask for too many extra ingredients.
By the time people had pitched in to help set up, cook, clean up afterwards, etc, we had a total of (and we counted) 55 people attend our Thanksgiving. While it wasn’t the same at Thanksgiving at home it was still very special to me. It was after that big event that we put on that I was asked to be the Social VP at the school which brought on a whole different kind of intensive kitchen workout. But that’s another set of tales.
Like I said in a previous post, Thanksgiving is a magical time for me. I tell people who I bring or invite home (or wherever I happen to be) for Thanksgiving that this is the one day a year you can eat whatever you want. I know this has next to nothing to do with the spirit of the holiday but I don’t care. That’s a big part of it for me. If you’re a guest in my house on Thanksgiving I will do my very best to make sure that what you love to eat most in the world in on that kitchen table at some point during the day. It just so happens that the Thanksgiving staples (mashed potatoes and stuffing) happen to be one of my favorite food couples in the world. I ask for it on my birthday along with pecan pie which I’m pretty sure I could eat a truckload of all on my own if I didn’t have parents. (I always make sure my mom makes two for Thanksgiving so I’m assure to have at least a half to a whole pie at my disposal throughout the day)
But every Thanksgiving we get ambitious at my house. My dad buys the biggest turkey and then 2-3 chickens. My mom checks out books from the library. I go online. Magazines get murdered. Lists get made. We all start yelling. It’s really quite horrifying how much we yell when planning family events/meals that are supposed to represent peace and togetherness. I’ve had friends state this quite bluntly to me. And somewhere in there we end up with a menu that works for everyone.
While the same thing is probably going to happen this year there will also be the potential addition of young college students joining us which is both a little stressful but in a good heartwarming kind of way. I hope that the students who come feel the love in how loud we yell at one another about who is cutting what completely wrong. But it is important to me, as me and as their adviser (possibly boss, we might get some older students) that they feel like Thanksgiving is magic no matter where they are or who their with. And also like they couldn’t possibly eat another crumb by the end of the night.
The second part of this post will be a special Thanksgiving Gastroporn Menu which includes some of my personal favorites for the holiday as well as some new things I’d like to see (and hear) my family argue about later.
To be continued…