Thanksgiving Dinner With Strangers

A big comfort-food meal, gathering with gratitude in mind, these are the reasons Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I am not going to say it’s not stressful because it is. Thanksgiving dinner is a big mission. You have to make a lot of different food—this one’s favorite this, that one’s favorite that. I can’t help but get cranky and high-pitched in the hours leading up to The BIG Meal. The food timing, especially the turkey, is tricky. A friend deep-fried a turkey on our driveway a few years ago. We had a fire extinguisher and several vegetarians at the table so everything worked out.

The mission of Thanksgiving is pure and delicious: getting the people you love together to give thanks for everything you can think of (and recite.) Eating everyone’s favorite foods and lots of them. It is so much better than Christmas which for me is like being a contestant on The Amazing Race.

The Thanksgiving I will never forget took place at an endless outdoor table. My husband and I had just moved to Knoxville, TN from New York City. There were at least twenty people gathered for a Pot Luck Thanksgiving. We knew two. After a few introductions, I gingerly got in line to join the feast. Then we all sat side-by-side and across a narrow divide. What amazed me was that everyone made the effort to get to know each other. There was such warmth and a feeling of genuine community in that yard. And it was so nice to be part of a pot luck event on a day that is always highly orchestrated.

If I made a recipe for that afternoon, it would have the following directions: come as you are, bring what you like, take a seat anywhere and share. This year, we are celebrating Thanksgiving with friends who have the same philosophy. For this, I am very grateful.