Written by Sabrina Chen
Seven Chens, one Li, one Ma and one white guy are sitting at a table. In the middle is a take-out box filled with cold turkey. The family of nine stares at it while the white guy is mortified. This situation is the Thanksgiving of 2013.
It all started when we decided that having my uncle’s family come over from Indiana for Thanksgiving would be a nice little family reunion. They had three kids, twin brothers Jack and Jeff who were in college, and their sister Alice, who was in medical school. Alice also brought her boyfriend Nick, or whom the entire family knew as the white guy. The parents arrived a few days before Thanksgiving, the twins arrived shortly after and Alice and Nick arrived at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
The moment they burst in, my then- eight-year-old sister developed a serious crush on Nick. She couldn’t look or talk to him for the next two hours. Of course, my Asian parents needed to immediately show off my sister’s and my musical abilities so I played the piano and my sister played the violin. I tried to play my best to please my parents; in reality, I played almost as many right notes as wrong ones. My sister did not like violin and played what sounded like random notes. Alice and Nick were not impressed and hungry.
First, my parents do not cook. My mom overcooks everything and my dad, although a good cook, is too lazy. Therefore, we had to order dinner from elsewhere. My dad thought it would be a good idea to show Nick our Asian culture, so he ordered a “Thanksgiving dinner” from a Chinese supermarket called Marina Foods. When my dad finally got the dinner ready, it was an unpleasant surprise. It consisted of seven takeout boxes—one with pieces of turkey, one with cranberry sauce and five with UFOs (Unidentified Food Objects). My mom, who wanted to order a dinner from Whole Foods, was slightly (extremely) embarrassed. In fact, she was so embarrassed that she didn’t even take a picture of the dinner. Since my mom has a track record of taking pictures of a bowl of rice, not taking a picture of our Thanksgiving dinner meant a lot.
The awkward situation needed to be mollified, so my dad took out some expensive Chinese maotai liquor. First of all, the bottle looked really sketchy—it wasn’t transparent so no one knew what was in there. Second of all, it was all in Chinese except for a 55 percent alcohol content sign. The all-American Nick had to pretend he liked it. In an effort to appear fancy, my mom took out our best Italian sparkling water for the children. Jack and Jeff outright said, “We don’t drink this.”
Basically, that Thanksgiving was interesting. After barely surviving the dinner, my sister and I needed to play more violin and piano. 30 minutes of “torture” for the Indiana family ensued. However, maybe that bonding time at my house strengthened Nick and Alice’s relationship. Maybe Nick and Alice got engaged that Christmas, and then married in May of this year, all because of that Thanksgiving.