Home for the Holidays

I’m flying home to Chicago for Thanksgiving, and bringing…my boyfriend. On the face of things, it’s no big deal, right? People bring their partners home all the time – and he’s already met my parents several times to rave reviews.
So why am I so nervous?

For one, it’s intimidating to bring your partner into your parents’ home – the place that holds the ghosts of your teenaged angst, not to mention photographic proof that you were once an awkward, braces-faced junior high kid.

More than that, though, I’m nervous about the food. I grew up in a non-kosher, crab and cheeseburger-loving household. He grew up in a strictly kosher home, and continues to keep kosher today. I’ve spent many holidays at his parents’ home, tucking in happily to the cornucopia of kosher dishes his mom and siblings prepare. This time around, however, my mother’s turkey paired with buttery mashed potatoes clearly isn’t going to cut it.

To her great credit – my mom has offered to bend over nearly backwards to accommodate my boyfriend’s food needs (kosher turkey, no pumpkin pie with condensed milk, etc.) and my brother agreed to make his delicious Thanksgiving green beans with almond milk instead of cream. Likewise, my boyfriend is grateful for their gestures of accommodation, and looking forward to spending the holiday with my family. Still, despite everyone’s best intentions, I’m freaked out. Over the years, my family has come to terms with my insistence that there be sufficient vegetarian options at the Thanksgiving table. But how will they fare with a kosher/dairy-free holiday? Will they feel resentful – like their home isn’t good enough? Will they feel deprived of their yearly food traditions? On the other hand, will my boyfriend feel fully comfortable at the table? And – the question I can’t get out of my head – will I calm down, or am I destined to spend the entire meal worried about everyone else’s happiness?

–Leah Koenig