All the Better When You’re the Cook

By Marcus Martinez

Thanksgiving, 6:10 p.m.

“Is that turkey stuffed yet? Can we put it into the oven?” my dad asks. His eyes dart back and forth between the turkey and the clock. He is carefully calculating how many hours it would take to cook the turkey, so we could have dinner before my mom had to leave for work that night.

“No, not yet, we’re almo … DON’T PACK IT TOO TIGHT!” I respond. “No, not you dad, I’m talking to Rachel and Michelle!”

I laugh, and my sisters laugh, too. We’re stuffing the turkey with stuffing we prepared ourselves. This is the first Thanksgiving that we prepared a turkey ourselves – and the first time my dad just a spectator.

“All right, dad, we’re putting it in the oven,” my sisters call toward the living room. I baste the turkey with vegetable oil, then we pop it into the oven. Three and a half hours later, we’ll be stuffing dinner into our faces. We can’t wait.

Three days earlier

I’m sitting outside the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s club room at Baruch with some friends. Everyone can’t wait for the Thanksgiving break, and the talk of foods we were going to eat makes our mouths water, even those who had just eaten lunch.

As I look at my friend Benjamin William, whom I’ve known for three years, I realize I never knew what he has for dinner on Thanksgiving.

“Hey Ben, what’s for dinner this Thanksgiving? Got any curry?”

Stroking his short beard and grinning, he said, “Nah, man, we don’t do that Indian stuff at my house. We keep it American with the baked turkey, stuffing, and all that kind of stuff.”

I laughed, too, but I secretly hoped he would say they had curried turkey – I wanted a recipe.

Over at the Hillel Club, I put the same question to Alex Davydov, who is Ukrainian. “Every year, we usually have all of our family get together and they each bring a dish,” he said. “We have lots of Russian food … I don’t know how to say them in English.”

Reminiscing, he adds: “We also like to have sushi at Thanksgiving. I like to make it myself; we like Japanese food.”

So – a Ukrainian immigrant family celebrates an American holiday with Japanese food.

Enough recollections. I look at the clock: 10:30 p.m. Downstairs, I hear my dad calling, “Wake up mom, so we can have dinner. Oh, and see if the turkey is cooked through.”

I call my mom and she grunts acknowledgement. My sisters, already asleep, get up to at least grab a bite of the Thanksgiving dinner. My aunt, visiting from the Philippines, is getting the table ready. This was her first Thanksgiving, and she was really excited to share a bit of the American tradition.

As the six of us are around the table, feasting our eyes on the turkey, my mouth waters. My aunt pulls out her Bible and reads a passage, then asks my dad to pray, and we bow our heads. We give thanks for the meal and every blessing given to us this past year.

Then we ooh and ahh at the meal in front of us. I’m so excited about the turkey that I forget what else is on the table. It was all the more appetizing because I prepared and cooked it.

11:05 p.m.

Dinner’s over, and it was fantastic! The turkey was perfect, the stuffing just so good. I had a drumstick with hot sauce. We don’t eat a lot in our household, so we still have almost half the turkey left. That suits me just fine.

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