Delayed post (originally written 11/25):
I guess it’s appropriate to follow a review of a play called An Absolute Turkey with a review of a Thanksgiving dinner that was entirely turkey-free. As usual, Barbara and I participated in Thanksgiving dinner this year at my sister Ellen’s vegetarian household — but this was the first year that we didn’t bring any poultry. Usually we bring a capon or a small turkey. But given the copious variety of delicious vegetarian food, nobody seemed to miss it. And no, the dinner did not consist of salad, as one of my students imagined. It was all substantial food; in fact, there was not a salad to be seen.
Actually, though, it turned out that there was a bit of poultry, as the Chinese neighbors brought along a delicious duck dish that they had prepared (along with excellent spring rolls). The guests were the usual eclectic mix, including the Chinese grandmother, here for a few months visiting from Beijing. Since she didn’t speak English, her family had to translate for her. Unsurprisingly, one of the American guests was eager to ask the grandmother some questions. These started with, “What did you think about Tiananmen Square,” which elicited a very cautious and bland response, followed up by some more probing questions related to the grandmother’s view of the Chinese government. At that point, caution and blandness were replaced by fear and nervousness: “Why do you want to know all this? Are you going to tell the government?” For all our negative views of the current administration in Washington, we too easily forget that we live in a free society and that many others don’t.