BON APPETIT - 14 NOVEMBER 2012
Beers were opened and then bottles of tequila, and I have this memory of sitting in a circle on the ceramic tile, voices echoing in a great room, passing around a bag of Doritos, everyone chattering in words I could barely understand. Using a pipe carved from an apple, I took harsh hits of questionable weed, then suggested we eat the apple itself--a shared fruit in honor of the holiday's roots. And it was great, everyone feeling it--but then I got sick and locked myself in the bathroom and passed out next to the toilet.
The next year, in 2001, the planes slammed into the towers, and Kelly and I spent Thanksgiving volunteering at Ground Zero, serving dinner to firemen. When all the food was gone, we sat on a curb, crying, sharing another bag of Doritos.
On Thanksgiving last year, Kelly--now my wife--was working in Iraq, and I was figuring out directions to a dinner in Beirut. The gathering, when I finally found it, was on a top floor of a building in the Christian district, where from a great height we could survey the whole city twinkling. Snow on mountains shimmered and curtains blew in and out with the breeze.
The spread was both foreign and familiar. The Iranians purchased the turkey. A guy from Afghanistan prepared sweet potatoes and stuffing. The Lebanese woman with the VW brought red wine. A table of people with plenty of reasons to smoke, none among us had a cigarette.
You get older. You don't need to smoke. If you try hard enough, you can pretend it's Thanksgiving anywhere. The mashed potatoes were white and the gravy was brown and some of us poured pomegranate molasses onto the turkey, the blood-like syrup turning the meat pink.
At home, in the dark, tipsy on wine, I listened as my two-year-old daughter snored. With my wife in harm's way, my thoughts turned to vulnerability, how little separated a good day from a bad one. A few weeks later, my new friend John was gone, having fallen to his death in a climbing accident. Other people we knew died, too, casualties of a darkening situation in neighboring Syria. It was a tough year to live in Lebanon.
As the anniversary of that Thanksgiving approaches, I'm pretty sure my wife and I will spend Thursday together, and we'll almost certainly do so in Beirut. Feeling festive, I'm planning a persimmon-cardamom ice cream. We'll see. Whatever happens, I'll try to remember how it all began, that sometimes you settle for a bag of Doritos, other times you enjoy a platter of pomegranate-scented meat. Whatever you get, hope for more.
This piece was published by Bon Appetit. Read the original here.