Growing up as the eldest child of Korean immigrant parents, I was usually our family's conduit to the intricacies of American life.
Between school and my friends, I could often be found running home to share my latest discoveries: "Mom, have you ever tried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?" "Do you know about this fat white guy named Santa Claus?" "Ever hear about this weird lady called the Tooth Fairy who pays cash for old teeth?"
As a young child, I distinctly remember learning about Thanksgiving for the first time. School taught me about the Pilgrims, Native Americans, and the first feasts at Plymouth, MA. However, from my friends, I learned about the annual family reunions centered around such exotic foods as turkey, chestnut stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie.
Koreans, as a general rule, never eat turkey. Either turkeys never made it to Asia or my carnivorous ancestors adopted the belief, "Why eat turkey when you can eat steak (or dog)?"
Anyway, at some point, I remember my brother and I begging my mother for a "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner, replete with turkey, stuffing, gravy, and sweet potatoes. To her credit, my mother was always willing to give anything a try in order to make her two sons happy. In many regards, she found adjusting to life in America as exhilarating as we did.
The only problem was that cooking is not my mother's strength. And really, if you've never cooked anything before, it's probably not a good idea to start with a turkey. Hell, even experienced chefs have been known to struggle with it. How else to explain that awesomely unique American phenomenon known as the Butterball hotline?
The first turkey we had for Thanksgiving tasted like it was boiled in water. I didn't watch my mother cook it so I can't actually verify that it wasn't. All I know is that I've never had anything grosser in my entire life. Thank God for Chinese delivery food.
Our second Thanksgiving dinner was catered by a professional chef. To this day, I've never had a Thanksgiving dinner that tasted as good. Sadly, the idea of the four of us sitting quietly at a table in our own home surrounded by strangers serving us didn't really fit my idea of a traditional Thanksgiving.The deliciousness of the food was matched only by the sadness of the ordeal.
Gradually, our family came up with our own versions of Thanksgiving. Sometimes we ate out a restaurant. Sometimes we had food delivered. Other times we'd have a Thanksgiving buffet at the country club. For the past few years, our Thanksgiving dinners have been centered around giant Peking ducks.
But now that the Peanut is four years old, I'm all about the traditional Thanksgiving. In many ways, Thanksgiving is just another example of how I strive to give my daughter all the things that I didn't have growing up.
So today, we cooked up a turkey with all the fixings. While all the adults were in the kitchen, my daughter ran around yelling "gobble, gobble" and was constantly peeking into the oven to monitor the progress of the turkey. You've never seen a child so excited about eating a turkey.
And although I personally would have preferred a fat steak, seeing the deliriously happy look on my daughter's face was worth the tryptophan-induced coma that ensued.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May we all realize how lucky we truly are.