A Korean American Thanksgiving Story
The three most dreaded words, according to moms like me who hate to cook, are “What’s for dinner?” It sends chills up my spine when I know I have nothing prepared in advance. It’s awful, really. Some days, it makes me want to run away and never look back. But then I think, who in the world would feed my family, if not me? Realizing it’s just another futile exercise in stupidity, I usually end up forcing myself to make something, anything, that will get me through another day.
I have to brag though, some days, I’m brilliant. My food is delicious. The boys are happy. Hubby too. And I’m content knowing that I’ve earned a nine out of ten rating from my harshest food critic, aka my second son. Other days, not so much. On those days, I’m like a b*tch on wheels, banging every pot and clanging every utensil I can get my hands on to make it known to my family just how much I hate making dinner.
Mercifully, there’s usually one day a year when I know with 100% certainty that I don’t have to hear those words (no, it’s not Mother’s day or even my birthday). It seems counterintuitive, I know, but for me, that day is Thanksgiving. The one day a year when I know our family will be invited to my dear friend’s house for a scrumptious meal prepared by someone, thankfully, other than me. It’s one of the reasons why I love her so dearly. Because my bestie knows how much I dislike cooking and the touching of raw poultry even more.
But now that Covid Thanksgiving is coming, I’m quaking in my slippers. Why? Because I haven’t made a turkey in like 10 years! And the image of three hungry wolves disguised as my husband and two sons, prowling around the kitchen island, asking me every hour, “When’s it ready?” (the other three dreaded words), keeps flashing inside my head like a bad nightmare as I try to sleep at night. Yes, we decided to spend Thanksgiving by ourselves this year. Yes, we’re staying put and Covid-safe, as in holed up with nothing to do but think about food all day long. Yes, it’s my worst nightmare!
It’s times like these when I miss and appreciate my mom so much. She was a warrior back in the day, feeding three hungry children and husband while working full time. She was always cooking, seemingly around the clock. Very rarely did she ask her two perfectly capable daughters to help in the kitchen because she knew, one day, we would have to labor for our family too. Even now, whenever I visit my folks in Korea, my 86 year-old mother still cooks for me. She sees right through my half-hearted pleas to eat out or order take out. And every once in a while, she’ll hear, “What’s for dinner?” slip out of my mouth, making me feel instantly horrified and ashamed that I’ve uttered these horrible words to my own mother who never enjoyed cooking herself. It just became her lot in life and now, it’s mine too.
I don’t plan on using any of my top ten below on Thanksgiving Day, by the way – I do have a conscience. This is just my offertory to all the moms out there for those days when you just.don’t.feel.like.cooking.
My Top Ten Comebacks to “What’s for dinner?”:
1) Anything you want, Darlings! (Okay, this one is really not a comeback. It’s for the rare times when my creative culinary juices are flowing and I’m feeling extremely generous.)
2) Rice and spam (Because sometimes, it’s enough).
3) I’m not done watching my Kdrama. Just ONE MORE EPISODE, jeh-bahl!
4) Pretend I’m napping. If they get hungry enough, they’ll just give up and go out to grab a bite to eat on their own. Then, if I’m lucky, I can squeeze in watching another episode of my favorite Kdrama.
5) Rice, spam AND freshly sliced kimchi (You know, just to spice it up. If I’m so inclined, I might also tear open a packet of kim to go along with the other stuff. Now, I’ve outdone myself by providing a full course meal).
6) I don’t know, what are YOU making?? (Passive aggressiveness at its best).
7) Fish (That usually gets my family scurrying out the door to get their own dinner. Now, mind you, I don’t actually have fish on the menu. It’s called bluffing – try it sometime with whatever food your family doesn’t like. It really works).
8) The neighbor’s dog ate our dinner (What?? You haven’t heard this before? It happens, people. Watch Christmas Story).
9) Not a damn thing. Feed yourselves, fools [ or fill in the blank]. (Or, if you prefer, the next response. It’s equally good).
10) I married (or gave birth to) you. Don’t ask for more.
And right on cue, just as I am finishing up writing my BoK article, I get a text from my husband. Hmmm, I wonder which one of these I should use. Number 10 sounds about right.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, especially to all the moms out there toiling away in the kitchen! Stay calm and cook on!