Growing up Thanksgiving was our holiday. The holiday that my family (mom, dad, sister and brother) were in charge of hosting each and every year for as long as I can remember. We Komarin kids were the keepers of giving thanks, and as such we felt special and chosen. We opted to make the decorations by hand - often paper macheing something weeks in advance, and of course helping our mom cook the food here and there. We would watch the parade, stay in our pj’s most of the day, and generally be giddy with excitement as the hours ticked on towards the big event. But the real queen of Thanksgiving was our mom, Sharon. The night before the holiday she could be found hoisting a heavy wooden velvet lined box from the depths of the closet full of our family’s inherited silver - some from her side of the family some from our dad’s. I would drag a kitchen chair to the sink to “help” polish it all and wonder why we needed so many tiny ornate spoons to begin with.
The morning of you could always find her downstairs preheating the oven and setting the table in her bathrobe. She would then (somehow) cook an entire feast on our electric stove while we literally rollerbladed in circles around the kitchen island. (The outrageous capacity of a mother’s ability to concentrate in the throws of their children’s chaos knows no bounds.) As the day stretched on we would put on our itchy tights (as if there is any other kind) and wait for people to come over so we could play Nintendo until dinner time. The Dream!
After we lost our mom in 2006 we didn’t do Thanksgiving for awhile. Or at least, we stopped hosting it as a family. It was literally too painful to do it without her. No one could fill those shoes and nobody really wanted to. Me moving to Israel in 2010 meant that I wasn’t even in the same country as my family during the holiday season. But something began to shift in me almost as soon as I got there. The newness of Tel Aviv, the warm Mediterranean air, being an absolute alien without even language to communicate, felt like it freed me from the grips of my suffocating grief and allowed me the literal space in which to start processing it all. Though we can never escape who we are in this world, the power of reinvention-of-self can be very impactful after a life altering loss. Suddenly, the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving again felt like it would help fill in some of the very real gaping holes in my heart.
So as the requisite American I found a turkey in the shuk suitable for any Thanksgiving table (though it was missing a wing now that I remember), I sourced frozen cranberries from a Russian supermarket, I found a flight attendant returning from Maryland to bring me a bag of non-kosher marshmallows (because the kosher ones are literally gross and don’t melt or char).
I commissioned my new commune roommates to help create homemade decorations out of things we pilfered from our neighbors lush landscaping and crafted a cornucopia made of fabric swatches and chicken wire. I cooked nonstop in our scorching hot kitchen for 2 days and made everything from scratch just like she used to. The dishes came pouring out of me like a river of memories. I knew everything by instinct. An experience, it turns out, so deeply connected to her that it often feels like it’s the closest I get. Because it’s as if I can literally feel her love being pushed out through my arms, into the food, and onto the plate that makes me do it again and again each year.
Make the meaning wherever you want it. Put the love in and get some love back. Get cozy, cook dishes that make you think of someone you care about, and play Nintendo until dinner time.
Get the recipe when you subscribe ;)
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to ZoeFoodParty’s Newsletter to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.