After Dad died I realized how miserable I was having to sit at this banquet of food I couldn't stand, especially with fewer relatives coming for one reason or another (alas, too many had died off early). Now Thanksgiving is The Time Of Year Dad Died, and I prefer not to be miserable.
After that last Thanksgiving at Mom's I started working in radio. I only had the radio job at the time, so flying to Mom's house was a bad idea when the only time I could pick up extra hours was over Thanksgiving weekend. I was going to engineer at KARA/KLIV, but I was offered the chance to do traffic on the #1 station in the SF Bay Area. This was a no-brainer, even if it was a severe pay cut (we're talking $13.50/hour vs. $5.00/hour). I couldn't tell you what I ate that day if my life depended on it, but that shift was memorable.
The next year we had an "orphan Thanksgiving dinner" at my friend Leonard's. This had to be the Thanksgiving Dinner Party From Hell. All the people were wonderful, but we had conflicting dietary restrictions:
- Mike -- allergic to corn.
- Fred -- picky vegetarian with a dairy allergy
- Robin -- doesn't do spicy food or nuts
- Leonard -- semi-Kosher diet (no pork, no mixing of milk and meat) due to tastes formed during a childhood in which his family kept Kosher
- Me -- brittle hypoglycemic who detests turkey and raisins and has a life-threatening mushroom allergy
I brought the dinner rolls. I was careful to not use milk in them, but it turned out the fructose I used was corn-derived. I didn't know this until Mike started reacting to them. (It took two days of phone calls from Whole Foods' end to figure out it was corn derived, too!)
Lola had remembered to avoid putting mushrooms in the stuffing, but I was busy picking out the raisins. I also brought a cheese pie made with mild goat cheese and goat milk because Fred thought he could have goat's milk but not cow's milk. This turned out, alas, not to be the case; the pie also didn't taste quite right made with the wrong kind of cheese.
Something else on the table had peanuts, which Robin doesn't eat; I forget what it was. I think it also had either mushrooms, string beans, or both in it, so I wouldn't have been likely to have gone near it.
The next year we did an orphan dinner at my friend Bruce's place. That worked out a little bit better, but the whole dinner seemed a little "off" compared to what we each grew up with, and there was this mess to clean up. Yuck.
The following year I flew to Chambanacon on Thanksgiving night. That was fun. The flight attendant to passenger ratio was 1:1, so they decided to serve us first class. My only regret was I had to drive a rental car two hours in the rain afterwards. Had this not been the case I'd have taken advantage of all that free wine and booze. I still smile when I think about that flight. The con was great, too.
The year after that we got a different idea: What if we went out for dinner? We agreed it'd be easier on everyone, but trying to find a "Fredible" restaurant dinner was tricky (vegetarian with dairy allergy, remember?). I then realized there was an Indian restaurant attached to a hotel in Palo Alto just north of Mountain View (where I live). I suggested we go there since they'd have to be open on Thanksgiving. We went, and a good time was had by all. Thus, the tradition of the Thanksgiving Indian Orphan Dinner was born.
The dinner has moved to a few different restaurants over the years, but it's become a favorite. Folks now try to get out of their family Thanksgiving dinner to go to it. There's no muss, no fuss, no comparison to Mom's home cooking, and best of all, no psychodramas -- just nummy food and happy company.
Last year it didn't happen because everyone got shanghaied into family dinners. I got stuck going to Warren's parents' dinner of storebought traditional food, which meant stuffing, stuffing, and stuffing. The year before that it almost happened, but first my hours got changed at the station and then it wound up being just Warren and me. Warren kept insisting no Indian place was open (which was bullshit), and I got stuck starving that night (not good when you're hypoglycemic).
I am soooo happy the Annual Thanksgiving Orphan Indian Dinner is back. This year people really wanted it, too; I started getting phone calls and e-mail messages several weeks ago asking me where it was going to be. The place where we'd been having it has changed ownership, but I found another buffet run by the same management, so we're in luck. (It's Sneha in Sunnyvale, if you're interested.)
I'm smiling and happy just thinking about that meal. Mmmm....