November 24, 2009

traditionally untraditional . . . or why Kevin probably shouldn't be allowed to eat the Rum Cake. A holiday story by Stephanie Reynolds

My side of the family loves to be traditionally untraditional. Especially when it comes to food. For years Mom would get up in the wee hours of the night to baste a turkey, only for us all to admit afterwards that none of us really like turkey. A few years back Dad ordered a Tofurkey or Turducken or somesuch critter combination (just don't say it incorrectly and shock your grandmother . . . ), but it tasted pretty much like it sounds. For the last few years we have thrown caution to the wind and dad has grilled. This year he did ribs with a brown sugar/black peppercorn marinade and a Jack Daniels pork tenderloin. Add double-stuffed potatoes, 9th Street tea, and rum cake and, well, it was nothing short of A. Mazing.

Adding to the traditionally untraditional feel is Mom's flair for drama in decorating. The mantle, the kitchen table, the dining room are completely harvest-festive, down to the little touches like individually moulded butter pats in the shape of fall leaves, that sort of thing. Then we all come to the table in our best (cough, cough) clothes - dad was in his paint-stained pants, Kevin in his black Beatles t-shirt . . . you get the idea.

Here is where I will verbally reprimand my mother for callously engaging in the tacky practice of irreverent holiday jumping. When I said the mantle, kitchen table & dining room were harvest-festive, I should also say the Thanksgiving holiday was confined to those spaces, and those spaces only. Mom and Dad had already completely Decked the Halls for Christmas . . . and the front porch and the den and the garden room and the foyer and all three bedrooms AND THE BATHROOMS. I am so not kidding. Mom's house looks like an issue of Southern Living Christmas . . . she begins decorating in August and finishes getting it put away in June.

I, on the other hand, am contemplating whether or not I want to go to the effort of putting a wreath on my door.

The most bizarre of the traditionally untraditional had to be our dinner conversation. Did we share all the things we are thankful for? No. Did we discuss politics? Barak Obama, the health care system, Nancy Pelosi, Global Warming, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck's Christmas Sweater, or the economy? Thankfully, no. Was there mention of Michael Jackson's death or Oprah ending her show? A discussion of the best books and movies we have read this year, like Crazy Love or The Blind Side or Where the Wild Things Are or anything Twilight-related by Stephenie Meyer (in book form, not on the big screen). No. No. No. Instead, Kevin nearly stabbed his dad in the face (accidentally . . . at least, I think) with a steak knife, and Mom was displaying a burn on her hand from a decorating mishap. The 10-person, full-table discussion went something like this:

"There are 3 things you should never grab:
a pan right out of the oven, a sharp knife, and a hot glue gun."
"AND OH, THE ARK OF THE COVENANT!" the cowboy instantly interjected.
"Yeah, that would be a bad way to die."
"So that would be 4 things then, not 3."
"So . . . would you rather die by getting chomped in half by a shark
or swallowed whole by a whale?"
"No, whale"
"I'm afraid that if the lower half of me was bitten off by a shark,
the upper half would still be alert and know what was happening."
"True, but if you were swallowed whole by a whale,
you might get in there and find out you aren't alone."
At this point, Kevin waves and, pretending to be inside a whale,
says, "Hi Elvis!"
Kevin then goes back to the kitchen to refill his
previously overflowing plate.
"Speaking of dying, how many squirrels have you killed at the bookstore,
Paul?" (Paul is my dad, the bookstore is his business).
"342 glorified rats, all with a single shot 22!"
These potatoes are so creamy.
"Wow, of course none of those squirrels were shot when
Nancy (mom) was around!"
"Of course not, Nana sets them free, then cuts down an oak tree
so the squirrels can find food without having to climb so high."
(At this point mom asks if anyone wants cake.
The answer is a resounding, and unanimous "no").
The conversation continues with my sweet 90-year-old grandmother:
"I used to catch mice and put them in the garbage disposal."
She repeats with her quiet soprano voice,
"I used to catch mice and put them in the garbage disposal."
Shock and Awe. Oh, and Disgust.
Kacey turns three shades of green and begins to look
like she is going to lose her recently-eaten holiday meal.
(Again, mom asks if anyone wants cake.
It has been approximately 6 minutes since the last time she asked.
Again, the answer is a resounding, and again unanimous "no!")

Since Kacey is now in a pukey mood, she shares the memories of a "Fear Factor" competition from college when she had just finished drinking a pureed hamburger, peanut butter and DIRT milkshake and was the only remaining female competitor. (Yes, yes. A proud moment indeed in her $80,000 college career.) Kacey tells her end of the table (mostly men):
"After that I quit. The final contest involved eating bull balls."
The mostly female end of the table didn't quite hear her,
so she repeated louder,
"After that I quit. The final contest involved eating bull testicles."
The cowboy then wanted to know why she felt comfortable using the term
"balls" with him, but chose to say "testicles" to the matriarchs.
These potatoes are so creamy.
"I used to eat brains and eggs. I liked brains and eggs."
"Gross. I can't imagine eating brains, though I do like the eggs."
"Hyena eggs?"
"You said 'hyena eggs'"
"No I didn't. I said 'I do like the eggs'."
"Oh. Nevermind."
"Speaking of balls, when is Nana going to pass on her
Christmas ornaments to Kacey?"
"HEY! Some of those are MINE!" Kevin objected.
"Yes," Kacey said, "But the Frosty Friends are all mine."
"Fine. But I get all the Star Wars ornaments!"
Yes, because nothing says "Christmas" quite like Darth Vader.
Kevin went back to the kitchen for thirds.
I widened my eyes at him and he shrugged his shoulders and said,
"I can't help it. I'm 16 and this is yummy!"
"Speaking of yummy, anybody want cake?"
"No! But what does everybody want for Christmas?"
"I don't know. I haven't even started thinking about Christmas yet."
"How can you not be thinking about Christmas
when the entire house is decorated for it!?!?"
"I had to start decorating early, we have a church party
here next weekend. Can't relax till it's done!"
"Speaking of relaxing, did I tell you I had a facial last Monday?
It lasted for a full 90 minutes."
"I got a pedicure for Christmas one year. It lasted for 9 months."
"9 months? The pedicure lasted for 9 months?"
"No, the polish on my toenails lasted for 9 months."
Dad interjected,
"Apparently they painted her toes with automotive enamel."
"Really, ya'll, does anybody want cake?"

At this point we imbibed in a rum cake so strong it was illegal for Kevin to eat in most states. Then we cleared the table, put away the cornucopia of autumn decor, and mom began decorating the dining room with a trio of silver glittered Christmas trees.


NinjaPrincess said...

hahahahahahaha! I like it!

Kacey Leigh said...


It's spot on. Except nana asked us if we wanted cake about 15 more times in the span of the conversation.



Very nice strategic placement on all of the political and pop-culture references.

You do realize, of course, that nothing is really achieved through this?

E.T.'s Mom said...

That's hilarious. I love the untraditional Thanksgiving meal.

Susan said...

I could literally hear every one saying just those words!!!

mnpolutta said...


*Lindsay*Jordan* said...

So not fair!!! I swear, about 12 times during the 1 person meal conversation, where dad said something about someone or something being naked every 5 minutes, parker and i would look at each other and simultaniously go, "mmmm, Jack daniels pork chops..." and then sigh in disappointment at the dry turkey and under cooked potatoe salad.

OUR FAMILY... said...

Hilarious!! Though I would like to know who allowed Kevin to play with a knife?! ;-)

~ Stephanie said...

YOU GUYS ARE GREAT!!! THANKS FOR THE COMMENTS . . . I THINK WRITING THIS BLOG WAS EVEN MORE FUN THAN THE ACTUAL MEAL! (A special thanks to my daughter who texted the many parts of the conversation to me throughout the meal so I would remember them later. I probably should have included that in the story as well!)

Ashley said...

We're coming and hanging out with you guys next thanksgiving. :)