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Reza Bavar Headshot

A Holiday Experiment Gone Horribly Right

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The holiday season is over, and in the wake of 2013's carnage lie the tattered remnants of over a billion pounds of turkey, faux-turkey, and the nightmare of the all-avian species, the turducken. (If you don't know what a turducken is, consider yourself lucky, and do not research it.) Every year, for as long as I can remember, the global turkey and ham conspiracies have worked hard to sell hundreds of millions of turkeys and hams to a populace convinced that the holidays are synonymous with these foods.

This year, I had a flash of insight -- divine inspiration if you will. Turkey is a difficult food to prepare, and it doesn't taste good. The only way to get flavor out of turkey is to stuff it with other birds and/or other foods, season the hell out of it, deep-fry it and/or drown it in gravy and other sauces. This seems like a lot of effort for a relatively small payoff. So the question begs to be asked: Why do we consume so much of it? The answer is simple: We don't know any better.

I am convinced that the traditions I blindly subscribed to have absolutely nothing to do with the reasons I celebrate during the holidays and even less to do with my gastronomical palate.

So this year, I initiated a small but growing movement to celebrate the holidays (any holiday) the way they're meant to be celebrated -- with the people we love, want to love, or hate but pretend to love, namely to cook and consume those foods that we crave, that make our mouths water, that put us in a festive mood, and above all, that do not burden us with obligation.

On Thanksgiving, I was able to convince my family to experiment by letting everyone choose those foods they love to cook and share. So we all got together and cooked in a communal way as we drank wine, listened to great music and reminisced. We ate shrimp pasta, beef wellington, chili dogs, tater tots and feta cheese on sangak bread. It was the best Thanksgiving ever!

We repeated the process for Christmas dinner and created a menu chock-full of favorites like nachos (three kinds), mac and cheese, lasagna cups, sliders, patty melts, fried chicken, apple pie, cherry pie and custard. Needless to say, Christmas was even better than Thanksgiving.

It wasn't just the food, though; it was the way we prepared it -- all together -- and the way we consumed it -- slowly over hours -- that made all the difference.

For my part, I am convinced that while food can be an integral part of culture, it is a mistake to become stagnant in how we define our culture. I invite you to join this movement, our gastro-revolution, by sharing the foods you love -- even if it turns out that that is turkey -- with those who enrich your life. I promise you will not regret abandoning the obligatory holiday turkey omnibus.