Thanksgiving is an American tradition, but I have made it my own. I think it’s important to set aside a day of thanks for the gift of life, for starters, and, of course, for all the wonderful things that come with it, like family, good health—and good house help!
Surely, we all have much to be grateful for, and much to celebrate, too, in the loving company of family especially, feasting together.
Years of living in the States have influenced me and, I guess, my children, too. I continued to celebrate Thanksgiving years after returning to the Philippines.
Indeed, Thanksgiving is mostly a family affair. In my family, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without turkey, Russian salad, fruit salad, and pies. I had continued the tradition, on such American menu, for many years until circumstances forced me to make adjustments here and there.
Although Thanksgiving is less labor-intensive than Christmas, both require an efficient kitchen, which is not possible without good house help, with which I’ve always been lucky; otherwise, I’d never have been able to pull off those dinners.
When I moved out of the house into a condo unit in 2000, I had to leave behind my good old double-oven Westinghouse. After almost a lifetime, it had stopped being as reliable as it once was, and, when I learned I had to order parts from the US, I didn’t bother. That marked the end of my baking days.
Condo living has changed our lifestyle as well as our daily menu drastically. With one kasambahay and a driver, we’re fine. For just the two of us, it’s more practical to eat out. Lani cooks more for themselves than for us. But we stock up on certain foods, like adobo, tapa, spaghetti sauce, etc.
For Thanksgiving, except for the fruit and Russian salads, we order out for all others. We usually get our holiday turkey from niece Genevieve Roces Licaoco, who has generously accepted our order since we fell in love with her turkey at first taste. The pies, a Roces tradition, are now ordered from cousin Ginny or her sister Annie.
My husband still waxes nostalgic and thinks he can flatter me to roll out flaky crusts again. It’s uncanny, but he remembers the exact number of years I stopped baking pies and shamelessly exalts mine, by his wide, lifelong sampling, as the best!
I only get to roast turkey whenever we visit his brother and his sister-in-law in the US. They have an oven so versatile it can inspire even a nonbaker to bake. I limit myself to turkey and leg of lamb, though; good fruit pies, even pecan and pumpkin, can be bought just about anywhere.
Christmas is just around the corner and it evokes memories of Lola Enchay and Mommy and the special dishes they cooked. Both, of course, are sorely missed season after season. With both gone, we’ve also lost the venue for family reunions.
My daughter, Gia, and I began a tradition of our own—holding our holiday dinners at the house after her family took it over and we took over their condo. I always brought Lani over to help. After Christmas and New Year dinners, we’d walk over to the village clubhouse for the midnight Mass. However, this first holiday season after the house was sold, and Gia and her family have also moved into a condo, we may just find ourselves at a restaurant.
Sure, it’s practical and hassle-free, and not just for us but especially for the help. But it won’t be the same. That’s the way life goes, I suppose. Situations change as do circumstances of life. We just have to make adjustments and try to make the most of any given situation.
Others face health issues or loss of loved ones. I figure as long as what’s left of the family is gathered together anywhere around a table laden with good food, whether homemade or ordered out, it would be nonetheless a celebration. Besides, there’s always something to be thankful for!
For the first time in years, kasambahay Lani and driver King are joining their own families in the province for Christmas and New Year. Letting them off is our own expression of gratitude to the two people who make our lives easier and happier. But the longer I think about being without them, the more anxious I become.
The repercussions of our generosity are slowly beginning to sink in. The prospect of being without Lani and King during the holidays is unimaginable almost. But trust us to overcome!
Yesterday, we found for ourselves just the right travel counselor. We were desperate for a booking for an eight-day eating and sightseeing tour of Singapore and Malaysia, to be back two days after Lani and King have themselves come back from their vacations. That should give them time to catch their breath and also clean house and car before we arrive.
Without them, after all, our lives wouldn’t be as good.