Double Blossom xx – November 2020
In America, where I grew up, November conjures up Thanksgiving and the exciting start to the holiday season. It’s a longtime favourite celebrations of mine because it has always felt accessible. EVERYONE can celebrate Thanksgiving in its purest sense because it is universally understood as a time to pause and be thankful.
To me the beauty of Thanksgiving rests in the way every immigrant family can make it their own, weaving what they brought with them from the old country into the fabric of their new country.
When we were little, we would go to my Jewish grandparents’ (another story!) house to celebrate. They used Thanksgiving as a way to welcome all their friends and family. This was where I was introduced to Turkey and all of its trimmings, the American version with the obligatory sweet potatoes, maple syrup and mini marshmallows. And then there were all the pies; apple, pumpkin, cherry, blueberry, chocolate mint cream. The table was long and the pies were lined up from end to end, seemingly extending into eternity.
But besides the turkey, there was always a homemade tray of spanakopita brought by the Andreadis family, my mother’s delicious pork dumplings, and bagels and lox from the local deli. This photo is from a Thanksgiving of that era.
Thanksgiving is where you invited people who weren’t able to go home to their families. With four children in boarding schools and universities, my parents always had extra table settings for our friends. It was easy because we dined around a large round table; like the ones they have in Chinese restaurants, Lazy Susan in the centre included. Instead of having to pass big heavy serving dishes of food around, all you had to was give the Lazy Susan a little push and watch the dish you wanted would glide around in front of you. I always thought that was kind of genius.
One year, I brought my boyfriend home from university. He offered to carve the turkey, a chore and responsibility my parents were only too happy to pass on. Things got interesting when my father handed him his electric carving knife. My boyfriend politely asked if he we had a carvery set. My mother then promptly handed him her favourite Chinese cleaver. At this point, my boyfriend who had been trained by his grandfather on how to carve meat from an early age, starting with meatloaf, realised that a carvery set was not going to make an appearance. And he made do that year with the electric knife and my younger brother at his side, taking the piss and feigning great interest in acquiring meat carving skills.
I concluded then that if I wanted my children to be able to carve a roast, I would have to marry this man. I did. The boys are now beautifully skilled with their great grandfather’s carvery set and have successfully converted their English friends to the concept of Thanksgiving. My brother continues to take the piss out of my husband. Thankful for families and Thanksgiving.
Lots of love. Xtine
The above post is part of Double Blossom xx, an Instagram project I started with photographer Christina Wilson Elms during lockdown. Each week we post a photo of ourselves and write a letter to the other on an agreed theme. If you are interested in reading our stories, you can find us on Instagram at Double Blossom xx — Two London sistas share stories about being Chinese in the UK and the US. Same age, same name; almost.