You Don’t Mess With Tradition

There must be a gene in our family that causes an unhealthy fixation on tradition. For example, I honestly believe my father bought his parents’ house because he couldn’t bear the awkwardness, had he sold the house, of the entire family gathering in the new owner’s dining room the night before Christmas to eat crab and shrimp and two kinds of dip. I mean, where else would we have Christmas Eve dinner? That’s where it’s ALWAYS been. ALWAYS.

We do not like change.

Whiskey will have you think he’s a rebel because he replaced the mayonnaise dip with garlic aioli, but we all know garlic aioli is just “Food Network” for mayonnaise.

But Whiskey’s thing isn’t Christmas. Whiskey owns Thanksgiving. There were these two years he spent recording cooking shows (over my FAVORITE goddam movie, Whiskey!), when he became weirdly invested in that whole Norman Rockwell family gathered around a dead bird thing.  Family was important, he seemed to realize. But not as important as FOOD. So he took over. He started mashing things that weren’t potatoes and experimenting with cranberry sauce that didn’t come in a can (the can lines are there so you know where to cut it, you heathen). The cylinder of Morton’s salt was replaced with Kosher (although we are not Jewish) and flakes from the Dead Sea.


Our mom raised us on boil in the bag rice and TV dinners, but Whiskey found religion on the Food Network, and he would not be stopped. A balls to the wall gastronomic Thanksgiving became Tradition. HIS tradition.

Then he left.

Off to the East Coast with Dr. Fiancée and all his special whisks and whisk attachments and truffle oils.

That’s how pictures like this happen:

The sign says "Come home for xmas or the cat gets it." The gun is an unloaded kid's cap gun from 1956, so calm down.

The sign says “be in California for xmas or the cat gets it.” The gun is an unloaded kid’s cap gun from 1956, so calm down.

Now Mom does not have the gene that turns tradition into a biological imperative. This is how Whiskey was able to co-opt an entire holiday feast in the first place. That shit would NOT have flown over in dad’s neck of the woods. The year after Whiskey left town, Mom just ordered a Thanksgiving dinner-in-a-box from the Safeway down the street. Frankly, she was a little sick of cleaning up after Whiskey’s experiments.

“How are you doing the bird this year,” Whiskey asked over the phone, a day before flying in.

“I was thinking maybe a champagne glaze,” mom lied. “Or I could just keep it simple and roast it like a normal person.” She hung up and turned to me. “He can NEVER know,” she said.

I nodded solemly. “You’re still making the shrimp dip, though, right? With the cream cheese?”

“Why don’t you make it?” she sighed. “It’s not that hard.”

I stared blankly at her. What the hell kind of question was that? “Because you make it. You’re the one who makes it. You’ve always made it. It’s YOUR shrimp dip.” There may have been an edge of panic in my voice, I’m not gonna lie.

Mom rolled her eyes. “Yes, I will make your dip. Just don’t tell your brother about the box turkey.”

But somehow, Whiskey found out. Maybe it was the lack of a mess in the kitchen that gave it away. Maybe mom was just a hair TOO calm. Or maybe she forgot to throw away the giant carton with “Thanksgiving Dinner-in-a-BOX!” advertised all across the side. Either way, we came into the kitchen shortly before dinner to find the Turkey had been brutally stabbed with a carving knife – a note pinned to the genetically modified breast-meat.



Because that’s what happens, when you mess with tradition.

7 thoughts on “You Don’t Mess With Tradition

  1. Maybe it was an international spy turkey double agent. Maybe he stabbed it save all your lives before the turkey sprang to life and neutralized all of you. You are lucky to be alive, really.

  2. Here’s the shrimp dip recipe. 1. Buy one block of cream cheese, and one small jar of premade shrimp cocktail with the little bay shrimp. 2. Select a plate. 3. Place cream cheese on plate and dump out shrimp cocktail on top. This is why I take cooking seriously.

    • My inlaws to me: Anything special you need for Thanksgiving dinner with us? Me: A can of gelatinous cranberry sauce. Because that’s what Thanksgiving dinner is ABOUT. And a tofu based Turkey substitute…shaped like a game hen. I’m easy to please.

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