Thoughts on Cooking the Whole Shebang

I was eating lunch in Whole Foods yesterday, where I encountered this piece of information on the table. At first I thought, of course. $159.99 is a lot of money (exorbitant, I know, given the cost of the ingredients), but for food for eight people for Thanksgiving, I’d do this in a heartbeat. I mean, maybe half a heartbeat. Because that works out to about $20 a person, which is still expensive, but it’s basically a cheap way to get out of a kind of a kitchen hostage situation. What I would be paying for is mostly a relief from the pain and suffering that would result for all involved if I somehow were required to cook “a whole turkey brined and roasted, traditional New England stuffing, classic mashed potatoes (classic, mind you, none of this upstart revisionism in these taters), green beans with almonds (pass on those), cranberry orange relish (what–is the stuff in the can too good for you? That’s the best freaking part of Thanksgiving!) (and also–relish, as if it’s supposed to go on meat? No, that’s disgusting), rich turkey gravy (impossible alchemy, that gravy stuff, but important), and butternut squash soup.”

IMG_6906It’s not that I mind cooking so much as the fact that I don’t like cooking on a schedule or when anyone is watching or if I might be ruining anyone’s day if I screw it up. I cannot remember if I have ever been responsible for cooking a whole turkey myself, but if I were, it was definitely at least a decade ago, definitely only once. And all those other moving parts–getting them all together at the same time, buying all the ingredients, burning myself, stabbing myself, forgetting some of the ingredients and having to go back to the store, the resentment, the agony, the exhaustion, the attempt to read when I should be cooking and then burning something… I would not be happy, and nobody would be happy, and there would be suffering.

So what I am grateful for on this Thanksgiving is, first, that there are women in my family and friend circles who are awesome cooks who handle this like champs, including my Mom.

Second, I am grateful that I have been able to step into the comfortable Dad-envelope of Learned Helplessness. Nobody expects me to cook anything, and that’s good for everyone involved. I don’t know what they think about me not cooking, but I have to not think too much about it.

But what irritated me, on further thinking, about this Whole Foods Thanksgiving, is the slogan “You Can Do It All. But You Don’t Have To.” Because I clearly CAN’T do it all. In no reasonable or pleasant universe would it be good for anyone if I did it all. I can’t really do it all in general or in particular. Nor do I feel good about patting myself on the back because I could do it all if I wanted to. This sign isn’t promising me liberation because it isn’t even talking to me; it’s assuming I could do it all, as women are supposed to do.

Alternate and appropriate super-feminist slogans might be: “You Don’t Even Own a Turkey Baster. Who Are You Kidding?”

“You Got Stuck With Hosting Because of Some Complicated Intergenerational Geographic Family Dynamic. Please Accept Our Help.”

“You Are Exhausted. As You Should Be.”

Dear family: I opened the can of cranberry sauce, and I slid it out into a dish, and since I’m the only one who likes it, I’ll eat the whole thing myself

4 responses to “Thoughts on Cooking the Whole Shebang”

  1. Haha Sonya, this is great. As for me, I’m NOT doing the Whole Shebang this year for the first time in over 25 years. I’m giddy with relief and disbelief. Yesterday I went to the grocery store just to get some half-n-half for my coffee and I saw all those piled-up carts, and I was stunned. We’re driving to LA (its own kind of hell, I think) to relatives, who have been coming to us for years. I feel freeeeeeeeee!!!!!!


  2. Thanksgiving is pretty much the easiest holiday meal ever to cook — no advanced technique required, and most of it can be done well ahead of time. I’d much rather make a whole Thanksgiving dinner than something tricky like a souffle. That said, I also think everyone should do what she wants in the way that suits her.


  3. ” kitchen hostage situation” What a great phrase.
    My mom worked and by the time I was in 6th grade, she’d had enough – and found a cafeteria which boxed up Thanksgiving dinner all but the green salad and cranberry. I learned from her.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: