Food Essay and Links | Compiled by Nathan Mattise
What constitutes a great Thanksgiving – Unbelievable food? Extreme relaxation? Family bonding unlike anything you’ve seen before?
The holiday looks different for everyone but after 25 of them (maybe 18 that I can recall), it seems the oddest of celebrations end up as the most memorable. This year’s holiday was personally a pretty routine affair that just furthered my feelings… especially since it came directly after Thanksgiving 2009. Looking back, that’s the edition likely to go down as my all-time peak.
PITTSBURGH, Pa. November 2009 – My sister is a resident advisor at Pitt. Anyone in that walk of life knows halls are kept open during short breaks and RAs are on duty for at least one of them per year. This year she drew Thanksgiving and so our first Thanksgiving away from home was born. More than that, her hall doesn’t have a kitchen so we’d be eating out for the first time too.
What options are available on Thanksgiving for families in a strange city, without reservations, looking for reasonable meals? Well, they’re open and serving at your local Denny’s.
I couldn’t help but wonder how many successful human beings have done a Denny’s Thanksgiving at one point in their lives (rhetorical, no answers please). Really Denny’s meals at any point in time have never been a priority (Scranton had a Perkins right across the street to compete, Syracuse had a few great 24/7 local options during my undergrad). Ultimately it’s a moment we all shared in no matter how ridiculous. We bonded over that warm meal better than we had at any one served at an aunt’s house with extended family and the stress that comes with it.
If you’re wondering, they do serve turkey. My mother was the only one to get it (complete with stuffing and mashed potatoes) so it became more of a Denny’s brunch-ish holiday dinner. I opted for a customizable grandslam and shared a combo drink of OJ and milk with my little sis. My thoughts on Denny’s cuisine stayed the same.
The rest of our first Thanksgiving away from home was equally as ridiculous and just as rewarding. There is no nap space available or necessarily a TV for football and holiday movies when you’re away. We found an open theater instead (Fantastic Mr. Fox, a favorite that works on all levels for the family ages) and took part in some holiday shopping. Old Navy was surprisingly open and offering entertainment (yep, family bonding over Rock Band just like motion video game advertisements). Late evening meal consisted of $5 foot-longs rather than leftovers.
It all goes to show that Thanksgiving (and probably any holiday with a large meal-centric focus) is less about culinary quality or massive quanties. It’s more about creating memories and shared experiences whether they center around a dinner table of 30 or a table for six with the option for Lumberjack Slams. Thanksgiving at Denny’s is something we can all tell our own friends and families about for a chuckle. It’s something we’ll share a laugh about forever and something we won’t forget despite its lack of kielbasa (our personal unique family addition to the menu, everyone has one). It made Thanksgiving 2010 feel fine and festive despite its lack of extended family or overwhelming meals. For that, I’ll always be thankful for Thanksgiving 2009… and ironically Denny’s by osmosis.