A Proxy Thanksgiving

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turkeyLooking ahead at this week, it would make perfect and predictable sense for me to contribute yet another Thanksgiving-themed piece to the steaming, teeming masses already out there. However, I will not.

I am not being obstinate. I am moving. After five+ years in the same tiny (albeit well-appointed) San Francisco apartment, my husband and I are relocating for the suburbs where he can have a five-minute bike ride to work and I can have a larger-than-life kitchen while ferreting out fresh food finds. So, taking advantage of the 8 days off Stanford gives their professors, we are talking boxes and bubble-wrap, not turkey.

I'll tell you something, it's a singular feeling to be eschewing all things yam and cranberry, while all around me discussions of brining, side dishes, and three kinds of stuffing abound. For a San Francisco foodie, it's partly lonely not to be spending the next four days plotting out how to shop, cook, serve, and digest a massive feast, but mostly, it's rather liberating.

There are few times when a happy cook can be made to feel more inadequate than around the holidays when each fish tale of festal feed becomes more elaborate than the next. I would even venture to say that Thanksgiving is more daunting than Christmas because everyone is making the same general things: potatoes (of a sort), cranberries (in some manner), side dishes (varied but consistent), stuffing (too many arguments to list) and a big ass bird (non-negotiable). How will yours stack up? And what obscenely creative measures will you take in dealing with the resulting leftovers?

The questions swirl around the blogosphere, "Is the turkey heritage?"


"Is the cranberry sauce gelatinous?"

"Are the yams sweet potatoes?"

And everyone's favorite: "To brine or not to brine? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the dried and tough flesh of unbrined meat or take arms against a sea of relatives and by brining juicify them?"

On that last one, the wisdom seems to change every year. Personally, I've never had a refrigerator large enough to hold bird and brine and I've also never done a side-by-side taste test to judge the relative merits of each.

Instead of answering any of these questions in my own kitchen and instead of ingesting pounds of tasty, seasonal, and cockle-warming victuals, I'll be unloading boxes and sneezing through thick reams of dust. Next year, I'll be back cooking in my upgraded kitchen but this year, my DVD player will do the basting and carving.

The House of Yes: If seeing them around the holidays makes you remember how infuriating your family can be, Parker Posey's creepy family dynamics will make you realize what "dysfunctional" really means.

Piece of April: I haven't been able to take Katie Holmes seriously since she joined up with whackjob Tom Cruise, but some people seem to like this "quirky" movie about a young slip of a thing preparing dinner for her dysfunctional family in her tiny New York apartment. I predict food catastrophes.

Home for the Holidays: One more movie about the travails of having a dysfunctional family and then I'll stop, I promise. This one features a long-suffering Holly Hunter, sibling rivalry, a difficult daughter (Claire Danes), and a gay brother (Robert Downey, Jr.) bringing home a "friend" (Dylan McDermott) to meet his family. Shocking, indeed! Bonus elder set: Geraldine Chaplin, Anne Bancroft, and craggy Charles Durning.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: You can't properly celebrate a holiday until you've seen Eeyore-ish Charlie Brown almost ruin his. Besides, toast and popcorn is just about in line with what I'll be eating this year. I just wish these recordings had the old Dolly Madison commercials.

The Thanksgiving Visitor: Not as much of a tear-jerker as Truman Capote's other holiday story, A Christmas Memory, but it's still quite sweet to see the relationship between Buddy (young Capote) and his elderly relative, Miss Sook. Also, Geraldine Page as Miss Sook is quite fantastic.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Three words: "Those aren't pillows!"

Son In Law: It's a chance to see Carla Gugino before she was Karen Sisco, Tiffani Thiessen when she still had the "Amber," and Pauly Shore when he was (sort of) relevant. It's also a chance to see how a pure farmer's daughter becomes corrupted by Southern California -- tattoos, spandex, and roller blades, oh my!