It’s finally happened. They’ve broken me. After twenty five years of fighting the good fight, I’m all fought out. Yes, for a quarter of a century, I’ve been trying to preserve the Thanksgiving tradition in the face of British imperialism. It was bad enough when it was just my British husband, but quickly, our Thanksgivings became gatherings for extraneous Brits to the point where I would often be the only American in attendance. Yet through it all, I tried to be strong. I held the line and demanded that turkey and cranberries and orange vegetables be served when English voices — deaf to our traditions — were screaming that Chateaubriand and peas and carrots and Spotted Dick and all manner of non-Pilgrimy things be served instead. You really want to know the line I’ve been holding? Read this and weep. Then tell it to the Spartans.
So, as it does every year, when I started planning up our Thanksgiving, the British barrage started anew.
Andy: Why don’t we have something different for Thanksgiving this year? Julian and I vote for Beef Wellington.
Me: No. Turkey. Only turkey. Turkey is the dish for Thanksgiving.
Andy: Why turkey? The Pilgrims were English. We should have English food. Let’s have Shepherd’s Pie or Beef Wellington or something good.
Me: NO! The Pilgrims were complete crap at farming. The Wampanoags saved their butts. We’re having only foods that Indians would have served: turkey, squash, corn. If you want to go out and get a haunch of venison, fine. Otherwise, turkey.
Then the phone campaigns start. Karl Rove has nothing on the British in terms of skillful use of traditional media. Only, in this case, it’s being deployed to trash orange vegetables. Phones are ringing and email is pinging from one end of the Bay Area to another as the British gather their forces.
Andy: Everyone voted. No orange vegetables.
Me: Only Americans have votes on Thanksgiving. We are having squash and we are having pumpkin pie for dessert.
Andy: Julian said squash is the Devil’s vegetable. We all voted. No orange vegetable. Didn’t the British throw orange vegetables into Boston Harbor? I think it’s in the Constitution. No orange vegetables.
In past years, what’s saved me is that one or more of the cooks has been American. We may have been outnumbered, but we were the hands that held the spatulas.
This year, catastrophe struck. My fellow cook, Susi, and her toddler both came down with the flu. So they are spending Thanksgiving in quarantine. That left me at the mercy of the Redcoats. They pressed their advantage.
And I gave up.
A Scottish couple who regularly joins us has already started chipping away at tradition in recent years. Andrew, the husband, has instituted a Scotch tasting for after dinner, which has evolved into a session, not only of Scotch drinking, but Scots talking. I can’t even go into our basement pub after dinner without feeling like I’m an extra in Braveheart. Then Andrew’s wife, Jan, made a sherry trifle. Well, that was the end to pumpkin and pecan pie. While Susi and I would bravely continue to insist on it and serve it, the Brits stopped even pushing it around on their plates. With an alcohol, cream and sugar laced British dessert, the humble pumpkin pie wasn’t even allowed into the dining room. The few outnumbered Americans had to eat clandestine pieces out in the backyard.
With Susi out of the picture this year, I completely gave up. I emailed the usual suspects:
“Jan has agreed to make her famous sherry trifle. I’m not even competing. No pumpkin pie. No pecan pie. That’s dessert. The end.”
Beyond the cheers, the Brits sensed an advantage. A weakness. You give these people an inch and they’ll take several continents. Then call it an Empire.
Soon the campaign was accelerating.
Andy: If we don’t have to have pumpkin pie then we shouldn’t have to have any orange vegetables.
Me: But I grew beautiful acorn squash with my own hands. You even said they were the best orange vegetables you’ve ever tasted.
Andy: I was just being nice. Besides, Julian says squash is the Devil’s Vegetable. Carrots. You can serve carrots. And roast potatoes.
Me: See, you dis orange vegetables. Which the Indians gave to the Pilgrims to save them from starvation. That makes you the same kind of Englishman who sold tuberculosis infected blankets to the tribes. You are wiping out my heritage.
Andy: We hate squash. We won’t have it. Majority rules. It’s in the Constitution. No orange vegetables without representation.
So today, we’ll have a turkey. But that’s about all that’s going to be traditional. Along with the Scotch and the French cheese plate and the Rhone wines and the English vegetables and the sherry trifle, it might as well be St. Swithin’s Day.
I guess the few Americans — which would be pretty much just me and Cousin John — will be huddled out in the back yard eating our pumpkin pie and bemoaning the death of our culture.
What is it the Tea Partiers say? I want my country back.