Even if you don’t know its name, you must have seen this iconic painting by Norman Rockwell:
The name of the painting is Freedom from Want, by Norman Rockwell in 1943. Ever since its appearance and subsequent permeation into the pop culture and the collective American consciousness, it is also known as Thanksgiving Dinner.
This is the quintessential image conjured up whenever a family feast/celebration is mentioned.
Books, movies, TV shows. Countless re-presentation of this painting serving as emulation, improvement, critique, parody, and commentary of the definition of (“an American”) family, the imagining / celebration / debunking of it.
Mr. Monk asked me to make a turkey for Thanksgiving.
“But I am ordering it from Honey Baked Ham. Just like last year. And actually, just like every year.”
“A real turkey?”
“Hmm. Yes…. Turkey breast.”
Truth be told: the whole family, including my parents-in-law who visit us every Thanksgiving, will NOT touch the dark meat, except me. We are also not big meat eaters. Therefore a small turkey breast makes perfect sense. Waste not. Right?
“That’s NOT a real turkey then.”
“What do you mean it’s not a real turkey? You ate it last year and you liked it.”
“But I want a real turkey. You know, like they show on TV with a lot of people around the table…”
“You mean a whole turkey with skins and bones on a big plate? With the wings and legs and everything?”
“And there are things tied around the legs and the turkey is surrounded by pretty, fluffy, green, things?” It’s obvious I am woefully unaware of cooking jargons…
So, he does not really want a turkey, he wants what the TV shows and movies depict as a proper family celebration. I may be able to produce a golden turkey, with silver things and red strings tied around the legs, BUT I would still be unable to produce LOTS OF PEOPLE…
Here is his expectation:
Here is what I plan to deliver:
Clearly there is a gap.
This conversation sent me on a trip of soul-searching: Am I not making enough efforts to create the “right” family memories for my children? Am I guilty of depriving my children of living the “American dream”?
You have to forgive me: being a foreigner or maybe just being plain neurotic, I am forever self-conscious of “depriving” my children of the proper “American experiences”. Deep down, out of pride (which as I am well aware is one of the Seven Deadly Sins…) and sheer vanity, I want them to grow up just as American as the next kid can be, in addition to all the global perspectives I am trying to instill in them as well. I don’t want my foreignness to become somehow a liability. Well, like I said, sheer pride and vanity…
I was all ready to make Mr. Monk the turkey after an one-hour long conversation with my lone co-worker who drew diagrams, even a cross-section one, on the white board to explain step by step how to prep and cook a proper Thanksgiving turkey, including where and how and when to put on the silver things on the legs. I asked Mr. Monk again:
“Mommy will make you a turkey if that’s what you really want for Thanksgiving.”
“He’s not going to eat it!” My husband stepped in.
“Mom. I am NOT going to eat it. Just so you know.” Mr. Monk said somberly.
“So you just want to look at it?”
Note to Self: Do not watch cooking shows with Mr. Monk again in the hope that he may be tempted to widen his palette beyond plain pasta, white bread, and rice. So far, it has not worked.
Note to Self II: Check Mr. Monk’s Letter to Santa in case he asks for Martha Stewart to be his new mom. Not that I could do anything about it. But it would be good to know if I totally fucked up by not cooking him the golden turkey…