Thanksgiving is upon us once again. This has always been a weird holiday for me personally. There is no childhood memory bringing me back to some vision of yesteryear. For two decades, I had the privilege of marrying into a tradition. Angie’s family hosted a wonderful gathering down in Novi, and that is what we did. Down there we would have turkey, ham, and watch the game. It was also down there in Novi where I would be humbled mightily by the most unlikely of adversaries; a soufflé.
I am a simple man. For years I ate steak with ketchup and would hear no different. I was picky beyond belief, and viewed anything new with suspicion. Hummus is for fancy-pants hipsters. Black beans are for Guatemalans and vegetarians. I had an answer for everything. Well, one Thanksgiving ten years ago I walked into Thanksgiving excited for the simple things I liked. No cranberry sauce. No sweet potato thingy. No casseroles. I wanted ham, turkey, mashed potatoes served with brown gravy, and corn. That’s it. Nothing less, nothing more. This is what made Thanksgiving tolerable.
As dishes passed I waited greedily for all my staples. My plate was almost complete. All I needed was some yellow kerneled goodness and I could scarf this meal down. I waited, and waited, and waited some more. There were two tables of people, so things could take a minute. But still… I was getting antsy. I finally asked Angie, “Where’s the corn?” She shrugged and continued caring for our equally picky children.
I finally asked, “Is there a corn pan somewhere?” The host responded, “We don’t have corn this year. I made a corn soufflé instead.”
Now, I have already stated that I am a simple man. I am also a foolish man. How foolish, you may ask? So foolish that no corn at Thanksgiving could ruin my entire holiday. There are few infants in grocery store lines at Walmart that pout like a disappointed Nesto.
Maybe foolish is too kind a word. I am a stupid man.
I was inconsolable. A fury raged within myself. I sat there in silence mad at the world. All I wanted was some corn, but I was in this world of wine and casseroles and soufflés. I didn’t know much, but I knew I had made a new enemy for life. All that disappointment was symbolized by that corn soufflé. I still don’t know what a soufflé is. But I hated it. I hated the word. I hated the pan it came in. I hated anything soufflé adjacent. The word sounded suspiciously French, so I had yet another reason not to like that country.
As a year passed, and Thanksgiving came back around, I was sure that there would be no repeat of the previous years’ mistake. Surely corn would be back on the menu. And it would taste better than ever this year. Alas, when dinner came I saw my enemy emerge triumphant from the oven.
Once again, I crossed my arms and committed myself to being a stick in the mud for the rest of the day. This single dish of food was responsible not for one, but for two years of ruined holidays. I sat there wondering how I could spin a yarn to bring low all soufflés for all time. The pan came near to me and I took it to pass, but Angie gave me a nudge. It was a gentle nudge, but a nudge all the same. It spoke loud enough to get through the Hulk transformation happening within. Angie was simply saying to give it a try.
I used the large spoon and put some of the cursed dish upon my plate. When the plate was full, it was time to eat. I ate the ham, and it was good as always. I dipped my turkey in gravy-soaked mashed potatoes, and it was good. And finally, I took a bite of the corn soufflé. And it wasn’t just good, it was glorious. It is hard to describe how good this dish is. I had never viewed corn as a building block of food. It was always just itself, alone and perfect. But combined lovingly with other things, new flavors emerged. I scarfed it down and then got seconds. All disappointment left me and my mouth was filled with praise.
In the years that followed, I would come to Thanksgiving every year excited to see my old friend. Corn soufflé became a yearly joy that I counted down to see again. It has been three years now since the yearly Novi tradition ended. I don’t get to see the extended clan every year. Don’t get to watch football with the guys in the den. And I don’t get to fill up on a wonderful soufflé. But I am not angry about it. Instead of being disappointed by the change, I find myself being grateful for the good I had while I had it. Looking back with fondness is much more enjoyable than pouting in the present.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.