One year in college I couldn’t afford to travel home for Thanksgiving, so a lady from church invited me to her family’s Thanksgiving in nearby Kentucky. When we arrived, my friend introduced me to everyone and I instantly assumed the role of sistah-girlfriend, rolled up my sleeves, and got busy doing whatever I could to help.
As we talked, one of my new cousins was intrigued with my being from New York City.
“Really?” she asked. “What do y’all eat for Thanksgiving in New York City?”
I just knew she’d smile and nod her head in recognition of what I called a “regular Black family” Thanksgiving menu: turkey, ham, greens with ham hocks, stuffing, black-eyed peas and rice, mac & cheese, sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole, sweet potato pie, and refried fried chicken for the next day when everybody is tired of eating turkey…And for some who put a Caribbean twist on it, there might be some curried goat or roti.
“But aside from that,” I told her, “You know–the regular stuff.”
Cousin dropped the silverware, stared at me like I had six heads, then glanced around the room. She struggled so much to pull her jaw up off the floor that she had to swallow twice before saying, “Hey, y’all–she say she have turkey and ham all the time at Thanksgiving!”
“Turkey and ham? Nawww–she just playin’, that’s all.”
Laughter filled the room.
“No, really,” I insisted. “That’s what we have every year . . . What do y’all have?”
“Baby, up in here, we eat COON and K-Y’s! That’s COON as in RACCOON AND K-Y’s as in CHITLINS.”
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry. Let’s just say I was sooooo thankful I didn’t have to look at little eyes or little paws in front of me at dinner and that no one insisted on shaking a little vinegar on those K-Y’s . . . And on the mission field in the Peruvian Amazon jungle, I was just fine!