My parents came to visit over Easter weekend. They came bearing food, packed in ice inside a casket-sized cooler so as to survive the 5-hour drive and/or a nuclear Armageddon. But not just typical holiday fare, a ham, dessert-based salad, etc. They also brought ingredients such as eggs, oil and frosting for making a cake mix.
That is what it’s come to, people of, well, whatever generation this is. Not only am I incapable of and/or uninterested in cooking a proper holiday feast, others are aware of that to the extent that they (sometimes properly) assume that I don’t even possess the most basic edible elements.
To be clear, this doesn’t bother me. I’m OK with lacking the drive and skills to, say, whip up a Thanksgiving turkey. I do cook at home – several times a week actually, and at least as frequently as my wife. It’s one of the ways I make up for my complete lack of manly abilities. Doing laundry is another.
I’m just as OK with people knowing that I can’t be counted on to provide the expected holiday meal. My wife and I enjoy good food – we just don’t go out of our way to make it happen. Pizza or Chinese food on Christmas? Cool.
And I don’t think we’re alone in being indifferent to the traditional holiday meal. But that’s probably unimaginable to my parents’ generation and perhaps an abomination to my grandparents. Neither era is right or wrong; we just value different things and have different skill sets.
For example, I imagine the holiday meal being central to the entire year from a food standpoint in the 1930s. It was a big deal to eat well and in large proportion. There was probably an element of that in the ’50s given that families were largely larger than they are now. Today, I can drive 4 minutes in any direction and eat myself sick on any number of buffets be it Chinese or pizza or comfort food. And I like that, don’t see it as being lesser or lazy or anything of the sort.
But that’s not to say we don’t appreciate quality food. Ask our friends down at Queen City Bakery. It’s just that we’re plenty OK with eating good grub that we didn’t prepare; they’re the experts in that field.
There’s probably a community aspect in this, too. Creating, eating and cleaning up after a big meal is the center of the holiday. But, again, that doesn’t seem necessary, anymore. We’d just as soon as spend that time tending to our kids than slaving over a hot stove, especially since we’re not especially good at that. And that might be the crux of this discussion – being a killer cook almost certainly changes one’s outlook on the holiday meal. My grandma is better at baking chicken than she is at using her computer. The opposite is true for me. One’s not better or more valid than the other, they’re just differences that are growing over time and seem to get accentuated during holidays.