Thanksgiving in the Shire is in full effect. I was not very pleased with the 20-degree drop in temperature between our place and my parents’ house, four hours away. Mom has brought in all her fragile plants, as she does at the first frost of the year, turning the kitchen into a jungle. DP “forgot” to bring long pants, so he’s walking around in cargo shorts and a puffy down jacket. Even though I’m not the one in cargo shorts, I’m irritated with him – maybe for the very reason that I didn’t forget my pants and I’m still freezing. Tropical people are not made for this weather. I’m withering, shriveled up in the warmest jacket I own and knee-high socks, contemplating carrying a space heater around with me as I travel from house to house. I long for the beach. I even miss the smell of swamp mud, if it means warmer weather.
Mom’s rooster (Casanova) crows before the dawn…and he doesn’t stop. Her hen house is full of summer molt, resembling a scene of murder most fowl (see what I did there?). Today the chickens have graciously given her four eggs for breakfast. Lucky! she says cheerfully, as she was just lamenting that the cold weather recently put an end to her daily bounty of fresh eggs. She fries them perfectly (over easy) and serves them to us with a splash of soy sauce, toasted rolls, and coffee. The yolks are a rich golden orange when we break them open with chunks of bread. The chickens have grown fat on insects and her garden scraps.
With the sun finally up, I can see dark, lumbering shapes in the field past the backyard fence. There used to be endless rows of cotton back there, for as long as I can remember; we used to pull a few bolls that grew close to the fence, just out of curiosity. The fibers remind me of all the effort that goes into making our clothes, and also how much is provided to us by nature. Now, instead of cotton, there are grazing cows.
After breakfast, we have our usual existential chat with Mom. This time she talks about growing up with kung fu and how inflated egos in the West have ruined martial arts. We laugh because she is right.
For lunch, we eat large bowls of pho at my aunt’s house. We try not to overdo it so there is room for traditional Thanksgiving later on, but that is impossible with pho.
A few hours later, while DP watches TV on the floor, I snack on kai look with Mom and Loung Lay. These are fertilized chicken eggs, considered a delicacy. I have never eaten the unborn chicken inside; Mom always scoops them out and gives me the buttery egg yolk. When I was little, I was not allowed to eat too many because “they make you hardheaded.” Later, I learned that some people consider them an aphrodisiac.
A few years ago, I gave up on cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I kept with the tradition for a long time, back when Brother and I used to slave away before dawn to make the perfect spread. And then, one year, I decided no more. I was burned out. We passed it on to my younger cousins. It is the one day a year that the Second Generation might know more about cooking than the First. So we throw together a pretty decent facsimile of what American culture has taught us about Thanksgiving. Just don’t expect to see elegant centerpieces and grandmother’s fancy dinnerware. We are all about quantity (I have an extremely large extended family) over quality. We use disposable aluminum baking pans and styrofoam plates. While I attempt to eat, Mom prods me to show everyone Facebook photos of foreign relatives, newly discovered on social media. Then I am recruited to take photos for the Facebook relatives to see. Everyone is oddly giddy with excitement at the thought of making contact with the other side of the world. They are shocked by how much the years have aged familiar faces.
This is Thanksgiving in the Shire.
I suppose when I convince everyone to drive to our house for Thanksgiving, I will go back to making a meticulous feast and perhaps start my own traditions. Until then, just the thought of traveling for the holidays makes me too exhausted to toast bread.