QUICK TIP 28 – Thank Goodness for Thanksgiving

QUICK TIP 28 – Thank Goodness for Thanksgiving

KITCHEN CATASTROPHE QUICK TIP 28 – Thank Goodness for Thanksgiving

Hello, and welcome back to Kitchen Castastrophe, the only online site where my madness is the draw, and not an unfortunate side effect. My name is Jon O’Guin, and, as you may or may not be aware, Thanksgiving is tomorrow.

Let this turkey's shock stand for all your faces right now.

Yes, faithful readers, Thanksgiving is upon us once again. The Great Turkey Purge of November. A time for people to gather with those they care about, reflect on the past year, and offer thanks. That’s the tagline, of course. In reality, for many it’s a time where they are, through filial shame, forced to convene with people they don’t particularly like but are forced to tolerate due to the vagaries of fate and bloodlines, to endure conversations about topics they are not interested in, or hold oppository views to people they REALLY don’t want to get in an argument with, because Christmas is right around the corner, and pissing off Aunt June now is a fool’s errand.

Whether it comes from your uncle’s excessive drunkenness come the 4 pm dinner, your great-aunt’s insistence that EVERYONE say something they’re grateful for (with the unspoken qualifier that each entry must last at least 3 sentences), your grandfather’s too-loud and too-specific endorsements of the questionable actions of World Leader X, many of us fear or dread the coming day of shared time.

I understand your fears, and I have a few suggestions for how you can get through this Thanksgiving, any similar Christmas issues, and potentially any Holiday to come.


Helping Hands Slow Wagging Tongues

It may shock you to learn this, dear reader, but I, for many years, was something of a wallflower. I did well in school, I read my fantasy novels, and I sought only to be left in the peace that I so generously had provided others. I eventually learned that, come the holidays, this request was not to be honored. No matter where I stood, or sat, or hid, I would be found, and one of two events would occur: I would be asked to do something, which was fine, or I would become a nucleation site.

I said NucleATION, guys.

For those not brushed up on their thermodynamic phase shift vocab, a nucleation site is a point at which molecules collect to form new structures. Like how hanging string in heated sugar water eventually makes rock candy, someone would find me, and, out of some flawed understanding of what people reading books desire, would attempt to start conversation. I would, begrudgingly, respond, endeavoring to wrap it up quickly. But it was never quick enough. Inevitably, someone would walk up looking for the person talking to me, and then someone would find those two, and suddenly my space had become filled with people talking to each other, laughing, and playing instruments. Which are all fine things when not done SIX INCHES FROM THE GUY WHO WAS TRYING TO READ QUIETLY IN A SEPARATE ROOM.

You know what, yeah. Burn it all

Eventually, I found there was only one safe place: the kitchen. See, none of the people wandering around WANT to be a part of the proceedings in there. The recipes are decades old, known only to select sages, and the work arcane. So I walked in, and asked if anyone needed help. They said no, because for some reason holidays tend to make people liars. So I sat on a nearby stool, and waited. “Can you grab the raisins?” would inevitably be called out, and I would grab them. “Can you whisk these?” And so on, and so on. Then, you’d say “What next?” And they’d say “I dunno, check the recipe.”

It turns out, in most cases, your Thanksgiving meal is not from a series of secret recipes known only to select sages, but instead is all written in a book, like, right there. And once you’re on the cooking crew, no one wants to interrupt you, or nucleate there, since it implies more work for them. This is actually one of the first ways I got into cooking: I found it was an easy way to get people to leave me alone.

Though I did try a couple other tactics first.

Shift it up Baby, Now! (Shift it Up Baby)Twist and Shout

Maybe for whatever reason, you can’t or don’t want to go to the kitchen. Perhaps, in your household, the secrets of the Thanksgiving meal-making are truly secrets. Or maybe you strained a shoulder, or broke a hand, and would simply be a hindrance to the cooking. In that case, conversation may be unavoidable. But that doesn’t mean you have to ride out whatever topic the speaker drops in your lap. Oh no, my friend. You have a secret weapon. I call it “Reactive Listening”.

“Active listening” as I hope most of you know, is the act of actually fully investing in a conversation.  Not merely “getting it”, but catching all the details, and contributing back appropriately. I’ve seen this proposed as dating advice, marriage advice, business advice, it’s one of the more generally applicable pieces of life advice

Here’s some examples, using a neutral, everyday example:

FRIEND: I just hate that we can’t sacrifice virgins to the Dark Lord during our smoke break anymore.

FRIEND: I just hate that we can’t sacrifice virgins to the Dark Lord during our smoke break anymore.
ACTIVE LISTENER: That does sound stifling, being unable to practice your religion. Has anyone else complained?

Only Belial, Duke of Lies, but he's just a temp.

Active listening lets your audience know you’re fully engaged, and interested in their issues. REACTIVE Listening, on the other hand, is a tactic meant to use those same principles and allow you to twist a conversation to a new topic.

RACIST FAMILY MEMBER: I’m just saying, we need to arrest more Latinos! They’re destroying our cities. INACTIVE LISTENER: Whatever, Aunt June.

RACIST FAMILY MEMBER: I’m just saying, we need to arrest more Latinos! They’re destroying our cities! REACTIVE LISTENER: You know what else is destroying our cities? Too much traffic! I mean, how are hard-working people like you and me supposed to enjoy our weekend in the city, if we’re too afraid some yahoo is going to run us over?

Why do we even let them drive?

While this may seem like a blatant, sit-com style attempt to change the subject, in most cases, as long as your tone is even, and you sound genuine, all they’re going to hear is “I was listening, and wish to continue discussing issues that face our cities.” Suddenly, we’re no longer talking race, we’re talking civics, and city planning.


Give Back for Thanksgiving

The last trick I have is, in some ways, the hardest, but also the most likely to be accepted: Don’t just volunteer to HELP in the kitchen, bring something new. Figure out something you and only you can do. Bring a board game, or a card game you learned from a friend. Bring a recipe you’ve tried and liked, and want to share with your family, and make it for them.

Tell them that you want to bring something to this Thanksgiving, you want to try something new. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.

This is unlikely to be the result of a success story.

This is my favorite option, because it takes the Helping Hands technique, and adds to it. By committing something new, you’re creating a section of the evening that is just yours. It shows you’re trying. It gives your family the knowledge that this time is important to you, and that you want to build on the traditions they have taught you. It makes you a producer for the household.

And, on the manipulative side of things, it gives you an excuse to duck out of any conversation that takes a wrong turn. It allows you to control a portion of the meal (a side bonus for anyone whose dietary habits don’t match with the rest of their family’s) and it will keep you busy for at least some of the time until the meal comes.

Once that time hits, you’re on your own, man.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! NEXT TIME: JON GETS CHEESY. REALLY. REALLY. CHEESY.