BY LIBIN ZHANG
Thanksgiving is a very popular North American holiday, first celebrated by a feast in Newfoundland in 1578. Parliament later declared Thanksgiving to be an annual national holiday, to give thanks and ask for blessings for an abundant harvest. Since 1957, Thanksgiving has been set to be the second Monday in October, which oddly coincides with Columbus Day / Indigenous Peoples Day in the United States. Confusingly, Americans celebrate a holiday, also called Thanksgiving, later in the year, which has to do with shopping.
To celebrate Thanksgiving, the Harvard Graduate Canadian Club decided to hold a dinner / feast on October 10 at Dudley House in Harvard Yard. The effort is entirely run by volunteers from the various Harvard schools, and the menu is as follows: baked turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin / squash, rolls and butter, orzo pasta, green salad.
The drinks menu included a wide variety of soda products, as well as beers like Moosehead and Molson. When your correspondent remarked on the lack of Canada Dry ginger ale, the absence was swiftly fixed.
On the night of the event, your correspondent joined some of his non-Canadian and Canadian associates, the latter of whom were carrying a personally-baked turkey, to the House. Said turkey turned out to be the first turkey to arrive, despite being 30 minutes late, and it was amazing to see no shoving and pushing, no mob lunging for the turkey, but all the people simply formed a polite queue to await their turkey slice. The decorum told arriving people that they were at the right place, had they failed to notice the huge Canadian flag displayed in the lobby.
After joining the queue, it is inevitable, given the Canadians’ natural proclivity for friendliness, that some would try to engage perfect strangers in conversation. This proved awkward, since, despite your correspondent’s extensive background research into the Canadian psyche, it is difficult to learn everything about a country from watching French Kiss and Barb Wire. However, there are several useful tricks in avoiding banter.
–[Genuine Canadian] So are you Canadian?–[Your correspondent] Um…yes, are you? –Yah me too. What part are you from?–Hamilton, Ontario [a city with the alleged reputation of a cultural and physical wasteland, like the Canadian version of Newark, Los Angeles, and Miami-Dade].–Oh… that’s nice.–Are you as big of a fan of William Shatner and Celine Dion as I am?
An alternate way to cut short conversation is to claim membership in the CPC (Conservative Party of Canada).
Fortunately, since your correspondent arrived with the turkey, he managed to bypass much of the wait, and was able to acquire food, safely retreat away from the general geniality, sit down, and be immediately joined by some folks from the Harvard Business School. He awaited with a Conradian horror the imminent conversation about Canada. After some moments of silence, imagine the hidden sigh of relief when the B-school persons revealed that they are not Canadian, and were also only there for the free food.
Your correspondent was very indignant and greatly berated the B-school individuals for their crude opportunism and cultural insensitivity, taking food away from true Canadians like himself.
The atmosphere at Dudley House dining hall is reminiscent of older undergraduate days; the high walls are refreshingly not covered with incomprehensible Latin phrases. The food was remarkably delicious, even in comparison to previous Thanksgiving meals. While portions were small, due to the socialist rationing system, the subsequent arrival of additional turkeys allowed everyone to take however much they want from the communal supply. One B-school person did get a chunk of turkey that was undercooked. A personal favourite is the homemade gravy, which when mixed with mashed potatoes and turkey skin, provides a superb taste of fatty goodness.
While the event is free, suggested donations of $5 were collected. It was curious to see the donation box full of American money, when a donation of five Canadian dollars would have been slightly more economical. Since as of this writing, a week after the event, nobody has suffered any food poisoning or adverse effects, the annual Harvard Thanksgiving dinner is heartily recommended to all members of the Harvard community. For the next installment, be sure to read the eagerly-anticipated review of a Harvard Bloc Québéçois fundraiser / banquet.
Libin Zhang is a 1L who has been to six continents but has never set foot on Canada. He has seen French Kiss twice and Barb Wire once (only because there was nothing else on TV and it has an interesting plot-line based on Casablanca).