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I’m a 40-year-old married, upper-middle class guy with three kids and a steady job. And I buy fast food for my family to eat on Thanksgiving.
Not just any fast food through, I buy Boston Market, or “B-M” as my wife unappetizingly likes to remind me.
When I tell people that our family tradition is to get takeout on the single greatest American holiday dedicated to home-cooking, they don’t know how to react.
This isn’t how I was raised. My parents treat Southern cooking like an art form. Every year they call and ask about our meal, hoping that we broke down and decided to deep fry a turkey, or at least roast a prime rib. And every year their reaction is the same. “Nope, it’s Boston Market again, Dad.” He shifts tone to disbelief — as if he’s on the other end of a prison phone call. “You did that again?”
It’s acceptable to complain or find ways to undermine the traditions of most holidays. Not everyone celebrates all the religious biggies. Valentine’s Day is a product of the greeting card companies. Even Thanksgiving gets knocked around for trivializing the impact European expansion had on Native Americans.
But by adulthood, Thanksgiving is most people’s universal favorite. Most vegetarians I know love Thanksgiving. The most ardent Thanksgiving critics can be spotted indulging in at least one of the holiday’s ritual traditions. It’s an extra long weekend to eat, connect, watch football, play video games and eat some more. There are no presents to buy, no expectations to uphold, and for my family, no pans to scrub.
Celebrating Thanksgiving in such a nontraditional format is too much for many people. But they should get with the program.
Every year I stand in line with a small group of like-minded folks watching scores of industrial rotisserie ovens spin turkeys at my local franchise. We share knowing glances. We’ve got this figured out. Across the nation there are people pulling overdone, underdone, or flat-out flavorless turkeys out of their ovens — but we’re here, about to grab a feast and run. I visualize the huge family gatherings with stacked trays of meat steadily getting cold. I remember the days I spent pacing the kitchen, waiting for the timer in a huge bird to pop.
Our modern movable feast comes in a handful of reusable plastic containers, which I triumphantly carry into the house. The kids gather around, smacking their lips as we peel off the lids. Maybe a couple of the sides need a minute of nuking in the microwave. The sweet aroma of food we didn’t have to shop for and prepare drifts through the kitchen. In moments we’re at the table eating. Yes, we do dump the “BM” out of the containers into traditional table settings and pull out the good silverware. From that moment forward, our dinner is just like anyone else’s.
Except, we got to spend the afternoon playing board games, kicking a soccer ball around outside, sitting by the fireplace reading, and otherwise soaking up the holiday minutes. I know for many people cooking is part of the ritual. That’s great. But for us, the rare chance to walk away from our labors and get out of the kitchen is too much to resist.
Don’t get me wrong, this tradition isn’t perfect.
I’d like to think there’s less food waste the way we do things, but that’s probably not the case. The bulk of food waste happens before it even gets into our hands.
The food we’re eating isn’t very nutritious, but since when was Thanksgiving about watching what you eat?
Most of all, I’m not happy that my meal means people have to work in food service on the holiday. But there’s a simple remedy. We should grab our movable feasts the day before Turkey Day and reheat right out of the refrigerator. Everyone knows Thanksgiving tastes better as leftovers anyway.
I’m convinced, we’re doing exactly what the original pilgrims would have done. Life was hard in Plymouth colony and convenience didn’t exist. If there had been a local Boston Market franchise in 1620, the pilgrims would have pulled up in their wagons and loaded up on gift cards to share with their new Native American friends. It’s the American way.
Travis Daub is Digital Director at PBS NewsHour where he manages the incredible digital content team and oversees the integration of online and on-air content. With 20 years of experience in online publishing, Travis has been honored to work alongside talented colleagues at the PBS NewsHour, Foreign Policy magazine and the Des Moines Register.
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