The word "Friendsgiving" annoys me in ways I probably need to address with my therapist. It's not that I don't love a good portmanteau. It's that:
1. This isn't one (it doesn't roll off the tongue like "turducken" or "cronut" or "spork").
2. It's been awkwardly co-opted by advertisers.
3. It implies that a Thanksgiving celebrated just with friends is somehow not a real Thanksgiving.
I love my family, both origin and in-law. Time spent with them roots and warms me, but the holiday season is rough. It's riddled with expectation of a cheer I am unable to achieve or provide in the cold, dark months. I'd rather not darken the glow of another's home fires, and it's exhausting, stifling and sometimes impossible to strap on a happy mask for someone else's benefit - or have to board a cramped plane or train on either side of that. They'll kindly put up with me in the dead of November and December, but I'll be a better me for them when April blooms.
But my friends - they're used to me. We picked each other. We have no expectations of how the holiday ought to play out, other than with a heaping helping of food, a possibly immoderate application of spirits and copious laughter. We each know how to make ourselves happy, and are eager to share these best and brightest parts of ourselves, whether they're traditional dishes, blessings, stories and rituals, or something that struck our fancy this year that we're eager to give. Those who are low and unable to spark their hearts from our blaze are welcomed and loved just as much. Maybe even a little more.
For me, though, this year's feast will take on a little salt, lose a little sweetness. Two dear friends have made a new home on a faraway coast, and for the first time in 16 years, we won't be at the same Thanksgiving table. But that doesn't mean we won't be feasting together.
Through those Novembers of candied yams, collard greens, squash casseroles, cranberries, spice cakes and nanner puddin' (ohhh...that nanner puddin'), a family was forged. We might not look like a unit or union you'd see displayed in a frame at your local portrait studio, but so long as I know my friends and I are raising a glass to each other from across the country, I find myself not giving a damn.
Thanksgiving Squash Casserole (from memory)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
Brown the onion with a little bit of oil in a frying pan, then add the squash and a splash of chicken stock.
Cook the squash down, cover on, for about 25 minutes, adding salt and pepper here and there, keeping the heat up so as to burn the squash a bit.
When the squash has softened into an almost liquidy mush, transfer the squash and onions into a mixing bowl and mash with a potato masher. Add one egg, scrambled, to hold everything together.
Transfer all of this into a casserole dish. Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes, then cover with grated cheese. Melt the cheese, then cover with crumbled potato chips and bake for a few more minutes, until the chips have browned slightly.