When I was nine years old, my family took a trip across the country to Anaheim, California for Thanksgiving. (We were visiting Disneyland.) I was in fourth grade, and we ate Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.
Don’t mean to brag, but I generally wasn’t an unruly little shit growing up. That night was one of the grand exceptions to that rule. I remember being grumpy throughout the whole affair, because I didn’t know of a single one of my classmates who had to endure a Thanksgiving away from home in a restaurant. Thanksgiving was a holiday that conjured images of ostentatious gatherings with "loved ones" (for many of us, it still is). The meal itself was objectively wonderful—plated green beans, turkey portioned correctly, a real wealth of biscuits that didn't burn in our creaky fossil of an oven—but none of this mattered to my fuming, four-foot self. We were the only ones in the hotel restaurant that evening. This confirmed my own belief that my family was weird, and that we didn't know how to celebrate Thanksgiving properly.
I hadn’t yet reached an age that’d allow me to appreciate an untraditional Thanksgiving away from home. Every Thanksgiving, local news outlets across the country pop up with lists of restaurants open for the holiday, ranging from Applebee’s to Dunkin to Denny’s to more local spots. Nowadays, I’ve got numerous friends who will be spending their Thanksgivings at restaurants, in hotels, dorms, or in supermarkets; treks home require enormous capital they just don’t have, they’ve grown distant from families, or they don’t have any family to go home to at all.
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I realize I’m speaking to a community of home cooks here. Where'd you spend Thanksgiving last night? What are the least conventional places you’ve had your Thanksgiving over the years? I’d like to know.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.