thanksgiving birth announcement

Turban Squash, Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor on Yupo paper
Putting aside the obvious visual imagery of trussing the legs together after removing the bloody signs of life, Thanksgiving is an awful lot like giving birth. It’s a pain you’ll always remember but also somehow forget when you consider having another one. This particular gem of an analogy came upon me last year, at the checkout counter of a Waldbaum’s grocery store.

I was back for the fourteenth time, in need of more apple cider, shredded Colby Jack, and an organic package of sage (yes, really)–things that required an extra run to, yes, a different store, where, no I couldn’t just “make do” not when I’d come this far. And by “far,” I of course mean, “far gone,” having, on all fours, foraged forest floors for truffles with my own snout (no, not really)–all for a wild mushroom pate that would spend the night pushed to the edge of plates, enduring complaints that the chopped liver seemed “a little off” this year.

“Can you believe all these people from Equinox buying food?!” The woman in line behind me said as if she were addressing an auditorium of old people from the Bronx. “The people at that gym don’t actually eat do they?!”

When I turned to look at her, I saw that she’d caught the attention of the woman in the next aisle, also in workout clothes. Possibly from the Bronx, clearly a member of Equinox gym.

“Oh, how are you Nancy?”
“Good, good, Gayle, so what’s doin’?”
“I’ll tell you, I’ve had it already. I want to go to a restaurant, enough is enough.”
“It’s terrible. No one makes an effort anymore, I know.”
“Just terrible. It’s not worth it.”
“Oh, and on top of it, Jim’s driving me crazy–crazier, if you can believe.”

The cashier asks me to sign the credit slip. “Don’t mind us,” the woman behind me says. “We’re just bitter old women.”
“Please,” I say, “I’m right there with you. I’m ready to stab you both in the face.”

I’m no longer met with the soft faces of women, bonding in a shared misery. They wince and clutch their purses. “I mean, well, not you. But someone. Sorry, never mind.”

On my car ride home, the point was driven home. Thanksgiving is just like giving birth. Prone to outbursts and intense moments of pain, then a formal presentation of your creation, where family and guests “ooh” and “ah,” asking for the details. “How long did it cook?” “How big is she?” are comparable inquires to that of labor and delivery times, right down to the birth weight. It’s a pain you hope to forget and an event you hope to remember.



  1. We delight in doing not-Thanksgiving food at our house. I made tacos al carbon one year; another year we grilled out. This year I’m making Cornish game hens and homemade spinach pasta.

    If I follow your analogy, coming to my house for Thanksgiving is a bit like sitting in a Labor & Delivery waiting room, until a doctor emerges to announce, “Congratulations! She just gave birth to a tambourine!” Definitely exciting, but not quite what one may have anticipated.

  2. Thanksgiving is the one holiday of the year that I like a traditional menu. Our seders always feature creative, non-traditional dishes; Erev Rosh Hashanah, with the exception of apples & honey on the table, never are the tried & true. If I have to serve gefilte fish it will be as an hors d’oeuvre cut into small bits. But Thanksgiving…that’s different. I no longer have to host it, but always contribute the sweet potatoes (from The Union Square Cafe Cookbook) and a pumpkin pie. Sometimes I’ll poach pears in red wine & decoratively top the pie with them, but it’s always made from scratch. There’s another tradition I adhere to concerning any holiday where there’s heavy duty cooking to be done. The culinary marathon always is set to Beethoven String Quartets…..often all 16 of them.

  3. Thousands of years ago whilst married with little ones, I was the perfect hostess – provided Thanksgiving for every single stray person we had ever met, turkey china, crystal, sterling, candles, name plates, charger plates, gourmet food that I slaved over for weeks in advance – worked myself into exhaustion. Ew.

    When I divorced and it was the darlings and me, my parents and an occasional elderly relative – we ate out. No muss, no fuss, and no dishes. Also no leftovers and none of the magic of passing along grandma’s roll recipe or my mom’s pumpkin pie. Humph.

    When the darlings started moving out to college a few years ago, I calmed down enough to have it at home again. But in a whole new way. Now, everyone remains perfectly calm. I put the turkey in a bag, mash up some potatoes, make the most amazing caramelized sweet potatoes, Stove Top helps with the stuffing, mom makes pie, I set the table and guess what? It is no big deal…food-wise.

    But the fact that we get together, mom and dad are still alive, the darlings are all grown and fabulous, the lover and I are still madly in love – well, that’s just freaking priceless. They don’t give one flat damn if it’s perfect, gourmet, fancy….we just care that we’re together, above ground, and that we have peace and plenty. That’s what it’s all about for me.

  4. I can honestly I have never had to cook a Thanksgiving dinner, which is probably why it’s my favorite holiday. My husband and I were married over Thanksgiving weekend almost twenty-one years ago, and from that point forward Thanksgiving was his job to organize and cook. All I have to do is bake his favorite apple pie. Even last year when we were celebrating our twentieth the day before in Las Vegas, he made arrangements for us to eat at Le Pamplemousse off the Strip at the Rat Pack’s favorite table.
    This year he is back to cooking, and as our anniversary falls on Thanksgiving it will be just the three of us, small, quiet, and ever thankful for the blessing that is my life with him.

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