Tofurky Day?

Tanja Hester is thankful that a Big Game win didn't tempt her to stick around for a fifth year. Respond at [email protected]

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Thursday is Thanksgiving. Most Americans know it as Turkey Day. Turkey Day?! A holiday about a food? Am I the only one missing something?

I'm skeptical, of course, because I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat turkey. And since I don't count the Pilgrims among my ancestors, the holiday has always been kind of empty for me. That's not to say that I've ever denounced it or wished it would go away. On the contrary - I'm a big fan of free time off from school and work that no religious followers can ignore. Other holidays based on silly things don't qualify for days off. Valentine's Day, for example - you mean to tell me that a dumb old turkey is more noble than love? Evidently it is, because in my short 21 years, I don't recall a single V-Day when I've gotten to stay home from school. So yes, even though I don't quite understand the allure of Turkey Day, I'm still a fan.

But you can't be a true fan of something if you don't understand it, so last year I decided that I wanted to know what I've been missing for all these years. I decided I would make a Thanksgiving feast extraordinaire, sans turkey. So I asked myself, "What do regular people eat on Thanksgiving - other than turkey?" I thought back to elementary school when every year around this time my teachers would make us dress up like Pilgrims (did anyone ever really wear that many buckles?) and have "make-believe" Thanksgiving dinner. It all started to come back to me - mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and ... pumpkin pie! Maybe I understand this holiday after all.

So I went to the grocery store - Whole Foods, of course - and started looking for the things on my list. I planned to make everything from scratch, but when I started calculating what all the ingredients would cost and how much time it would take (not to mention how much room it would consume in my tiny, Berkeley slum apartment), I decided that going the easy route wouldn't make that much of a difference. I am a college student, after all.

The new slacker approach to my veggie Thanksgiving made my shopping trip much easier. I grabbed a box of dehydrated mashed potatoes, a packet of mushroom gravy, a canister of Stove Top stuffing, a can of cranberry sauce and a frozen pumpkin pie. (Okay, I also got a big tub of Cool Whip, but only to get the true Thanksgiving experience.) Then I looked at my cart. It was a pathetic sight. Families across America would be sitting down together for a warm, hearty meal cooked with love, and I would be choking down a plate of processed, reconstituted junk food. And worst of all, I was missing the very ingredient that gives this holiday its name.

Then it occurred to me - "I'm at Whole Foods! They have solutions for problems like this!" I explained my dilemma to the nearest employee and he pointed me in the right direction. I found my way to the back of the store and scanned the shelves in the refrigerated section. Then I saw it - Tofurky, the meatless turkey. I quickly tossed a package into my cart and happily went back to my apartment to begin laboring over what I was sure would soon be my brilliant creation.

I slaved away for the better part of an hour on my feast, and then my roommate and I sat down to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I could barely contain myself. I shivered with anticipation. I cut a piece of Tofurky, put some cranberry sauce on it and took a bite.

I would love to say that I've never tasted anything so delicious before. I wish I could say angels sang and fireworks exploded when I took that first bite - but I can't. I could spend a lot of time describing our reactions and the various faces we made, but I won't go into what a huge disappointment the whole endeavor was. Tofurky just isn't turkey, even to the most indiscriminate non-meat eater. I wondered how I had ever convinced myself that something called Tofurky could actually be good.

So for a while I thought I had wasted all that effort. All I wanted to do was get some touchy-feely firsthand knowledge of what Turkey Day was all about, but in the process I forgot the most important thing about Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year! And because I've never been bogged down by the sleep-inducing tryptophan turkey is loaded with, I've always enjoyed something of a competitive advantage. I can sale-shop like a champ on any given day, but set me out with a bunch of middle-aged women still feeling the turkey hangover, and I'm unstoppable. Unfortunately, last year I felt so obligated to eat all the food for which I had built my hopes up, that I passed out from fullness and slept late the next day, missing all of the early bird sales at Union Square.

The moral of the story is that by trying to experience a real Thanksgiving, I learned that Thanksgiving isn't about food at all - it's about resting up before shopping like a maniac. It's Corporate America's secret way of getting us to spend our hard-earned cash more eagerly, because we're full of mood-altering food, and most importantly, we're well-rested. They just tell us it's about turkey and family to sell more frozen turkeys, to sell more plane tickets, and to sell more useless schlock that we eagerly purchase and pass off as Christmas gifts. But now I have it all figured out.

This year, no Thanksgiving feast for me. On Friday morning, I'll be rested, ready and raring to go. Shoppers of the world, prepare to eat my dust.


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