I love Thanksgiving. Besides my birthday, which is also in November, it’s my favorite thing to celebrate. Why, you ask?
Well there’s the time I get to spend with my family. My brother moved to North Carolina almost two years ago and he has a house, yes a whole house to himself. He has a living room, a dining room, a large kitchen and a massive backyard, with a deck. My parents downsized to a small condo in Florida, my sister and her husband live Upstate, and I live in an apartment in Brooklyn. My parents hate the cold and since we can never predict the weather in NY, it was a no-brainer that we would spend the holiday down South. So everyone went to North Carolina. It went so well the first year, that we decided to make it an annual tradition, for now.
There is nothing like reminiscing over childhood memories, laughing at my Dad’s stories (or anything he says for that matter), watching TV, singing and sometimes even dancing together. Plus, the trips are short enough that we don’t start to annoy each other, too much.
But the best reason for the season, the real impetus for putting up with holiday travel is getting to have my mother’s cooking. My mother can throw down in the kitchen. She should have been a chef. She needs to have a restaurant. So many other people have one and their food is not even worth paying for sometimes.
Although I have enjoyed her cooking, I didn’t always appreciate it. I had it so much growing up, that I took it for granted. I even remember being embarrassed by it. I wanted to go to school with a “normal” lunch, like a sandwich and chips. But my mom gave me a thermos filled with stewed chicken, rice & beans or white rice with sos pwa (bean sauce). I got tired of explaining my lunch and my ethnicity to my schoolmates. I especially hated getting teased about the grease that would almost always leak out of my plastic bag (my mother refused to get me a cool lunch box for a while).
Even at home, I started to request more “American” food like mac-n-cheese, fried chicken, cornbread or pizza. My mom often told us to eat whatever she made or to just not eat. But she would sometimes make the foods I requested. They would never taste the same though (a la Eddie Murphy’s mom’s homemade burger). Funny thing is, her versions were often better.
My mom’s macaroni has so many spices in it, that most others taste bland to me. Her lasagna is ridiculous. Her corn is always buttered and seasoned to perfection. She even made us spring rolls, when I younger, that tasted better than the Chinese store (they were greasy as hell, but filled with spicy ground chicken).
So as I’ve gotten older, I have become more grateful for the hours she spends preparing meals for us. I look forward to my first bite. My brother and I challenge each other with who can make the biggest plate (I usually lose).
I have learned how to make a few of her best dishes. I’ve even mastered her BBQ chicken, rice & beans, black rice and New Year’s soup joumou. Her sos pwa is next on my list.
I also make American dishes well, like Paula Deen’s cornbread stuffing & Sunny Anderson’s sweet potato casserole. But Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without my mother’s Haitian cooking. Thank goodness the holiday only comes once a year. Otherwise, I’d weigh a whole lot more.