I came to the America from Hong Kong when I was eight years old. During my formative years, I was trying my best to get used to my new life, customs, surroundings, holidays and food. Thanksgiving was a unique holiday to me. I was given the “standard” version of the history behind Thanksgiving courtesy of elementary school. Look, we don’t have turkeys on Hong Kong, let alone China. So the idea of cooking a form of poultry that is twice the size of an average chicken is new to me. We have a gigantic beast that is covered in black and brown feathers that goes, “gobble gobble”. Did I mention the size of this thing? How the hell can anyone put this bird in an average oven?!
Ok, calm down. Take a deep breath.
Ok, a turkey is a chicken in gigantic form. So, it must taste like a chicken. It’s juicy, succulent and flavorful. According to Thanksgiving tradition, one would serve turkey with stuffing. Now stuffing is a new concept to me. You stuff the bird’s cavity with tasty things like breadcrumbs, herbs, onions, veggies and it’s based with the juices from the turkey.
Then came along a television commercial for a product called, Stove Top Stuffing. Could it be this is all the goodness of a Thanksgiving treat that comes in box?! Yes!
Turkey juices, check!
Tastiness, double check!
One of my classmates invited me to have a Thanksgiving dinner at their house. My friend’s mother was very kind, as she wanted me to have a genuine American Thanksgiving experience. I dressed in my very best clothes, mind my manners and had my etiquette upon arrival. My eyes were filled with wonder as I looked at the setting of the dinner table. The mother took her time in explaining each dish and its ingredients. She then exclaimed, “And we’re also having Stove Top Stuffing!” “Oh joy!”, I had thought. I finally will get to taste what all the fuss was about.
The turkey, veggies, gravy, cranberry sauce and trimmings were delightful. My anticipation grew as the bowl of Stove Top Stuffing was passed into my hands. I took one heaping scoop on to my plate and dug my fork into it.
Wait a minute…why does it taste so bland? It’s so dry! Where were the traces of turkey juice that I was promised?! Why was it so mushy? Only the mash potatoes on the table was supposed to be mushy! I had to be mindful of my manners, so spitting the stuff on to the plate was completely out of the question. I fought back the tears in my eyes from utter disappointment. “Oh why must food tastes so bad?! What have I done to deserve this?!”, I kept asking myself as I tried to chew on the stuffing. Then my friend’s mother asked, “Would you like some more stuffing?” At this point, I tried hard to smile and hold back the tears. I looked at the box of Stove Top Stuffing that was on the other side of the table. Maybe I should eat the cardboard box instead. I am sure the box tastes better than its contents. Perhaps I may find a few drops of turkey juice on the box lid.
The moral of the story? Yes, you may encounter unpleasant dishes at a Thanksgiving table, but it’s the experience that counts. My Thanksgiving experiences went by leaps and bounds. The food has gotten better as time went on. I am thankful for my classmate and her family for indoctrinating me into this wonderful American tradition.
It is especially poignant this year, as so many tragedies and hardships that have befallen on our fellow humans. We should all just take if just one day to be thankful for what we have.
I know I am. Just don’t give me any Stove Top Stuffing is all I ask.