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

9 comments on “Home for the Holidays

  1. Shelby Meyerhoff on

    Leah, I can see why you are anxious, but I think from what you’ve said here that it is going to be just fine. It sounds like Mom, brother, and boyfriend alike are going into it with a positive attitude, and that’s what will make a difference.

    I think that most people are used to accommodating a variety of food-related needs (including lactose-intolerance, veganism, nut-allergies, vegetarianism, gluten-avoidance, to name a few) My own opinion is that not every single dish at a holiday meal needs conform to every single person at the table’s needs, but rather that each person should have some choices in terms of what to eat, and that all foods should be clearly identified (i.e. “these cookies contain nuts” or “I used a few teaspoons of milk in this pie.”)

  2. RHF on

    Your anxiety is endearing but don’t freak out. The fact that your family has been so accommodating, without making a stink about it (at least not enough for you to mention it if they did) shows how much they like your boyfriend and how much they love you. Don’t worry, and happy Thanksgiving.

  3. carol koenig on

    My Dear Leah,
    Unfortunately, one of the traits you inherited from me is that of trying to please everyone. Will it help you to know that having grown up in a kosher home, I am secretly pleased to do this for you and Yoshie. AND, maybe you never fully took in my attempt to always make Passover a “kosher” holiday…never mixing milk and meat in my seder preparations or throughout the week and purchasing only kosher meats and products for Passover. This is in honor of the memory of my Bubby and Zadie where I spent so many happy times at holidays. Relax….we’ll make it work.
    I love you, Mom

  4. Laurence on

    If your boyfriend is strictly kosher, what is he doing attending a thanksgiving celebration anyway? What is thanksgiving? What is it celebrating? It has nothing to do with the Jewish religion. If you are Jewish, you should know this.

    If he is strictly kosher, then as you should know, it is not about the food in itself, it is about the cooking utensils, plates, cutlery, pots and pans etc. Then what about milk and meat? Are you sure you are Jewish at all?

  5. Leah Koenig on

    Thanks everyone for your comments – I thought folks might like to know that everything went really well at Thanksgiving dinner and over the weekend. A moment here or there of brief tension, confusion, and more disposable plates than this environmentalist might like (though my mom did buy a new set glass plates and boiled some silverware), but overall we – thankfully – had a wonderful time.

    Laurence, that was a perplexing comment – it totally oversimplified the complexity and diversity of Jewish individuals and Jewish community. Many strictly-kosher, Modern Orthodox Jews celebrate Thanksgiving, viewing it not as a Christian or pagan holiday, but an honoring of the American aspects of their heritage. There is plenty of diversity of opinion – even in the Orthodox community…

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