Thursday, November 23, 2007 ~ Thanksgiving

Traditionally, Matt and I get Chinese takeout for Thanksgiving, a holiday I actively dislike. Despite its name, Thanksgiving is really the Family Holiday. Even Christmas pales beside it: that day's focus is on giving and receiving even more than togetherness. Strangely though, being alone on Christmas is to be almost hauntingly empty; you feel like a ghost. But being alone on Thanksgiving is rather wonderful, like not attending a party that you didn't want to go to and where no one will realize you're not there. At Thanksgiving, you gather with your family and stuff yourself with food as if it were love—or the next best thing —then stagger back to your regular life, oversatiated and wrung out. Christmas, however, creates expectations that are never met, so you leave hungry and depressed, with an armload of things you didn't want and can't imagine why anyone would think you did.

I know most people don't feel this way, including Matt, but there it is. So, for me to make spaghetti with meatballs represents a considerable mellowing. What happened was that Matt was waxing nostalgic about her mother's cooking (which was, not self-assuredly, almost reluctantly, quite good), and it came to me that a "family" meal rich in associations but without any evocative connection to the holiday would, in fact, make a fine Thanksgiving dinner. Even so, to keep the affair at arm's length, I decided to use Bruce Aidell's turkey and chicken meatballs, straight from the supermarket packaged-meats case, and Seeds of Change tomato and basil sauce.

Everything turned out well, and it was satisfying making a meal that was at once urfamily and yet unconnected with the holiday. I felt as though I was with family, but, happily, not with my own family. Bruce’s meatballs were not really meatball meatballs. They were not juicy; they were not made from beef or pork; there were no bread crumbs or milk or egg. They were, not surprisingly, too lean, too chewy — in sum, they lacked the meatball’s essential soft heart. If I ever do this again I'll have to make my own. The sauce, though, was just what a good spaghetti sauce should be. I did gussy it up with sautéed onion and green and yellow bell pepper, some minced salt capers and green and black olives, garlic, a splash of Zin, a dash of hot sauce, and some minced parsley. But no cheese: we have several chunks of Parmesan in the fridge, but I've taken against tossing it with spaghetti unless that's the whole point.

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