Freedom from Want, Or The Case of the Golden Turkey

November 22, 2009

in a picture is worth a thousand words,no manual for parenting

Even if you don’t know its name, you must have seen this iconic painting by Norman Rockwell:


The name of the painting is Freedom from Want, by Norman Rockwell in 1943. Ever since its appearance and subsequent permeation into the pop culture and the collective American consciousness, it is also known as Thanksgiving Dinner.

This is the quintessential image conjured up whenever a family feast/celebration is mentioned.

Books, movies, TV shows. Countless re-presentation of this painting serving as emulation, improvement, critique, parody, and commentary of the definition of (“an American”) family, the imagining / celebration / debunking of it.

Mr. Monk asked me to make a turkey for Thanksgiving.

“But I am ordering it from Honey Baked Ham. Just like last year. And actually, just like every year.”

“A real turkey?”

“Hmm. Yes…. Turkey breast.”

Truth be told: the whole family, including my parents-in-law who visit us every Thanksgiving, will NOT touch the dark meat, except me. We are also not big meat eaters. Therefore a small turkey breast makes perfect sense. Waste not. Right?

“That’s NOT a real turkey then.”

“What do you mean it’s not a real turkey? You ate it last year and you liked it.”

“But I want a real turkey. You know, like they show on TV with a lot of people around the table…”

“You mean a whole turkey with skins and bones on a big plate? With the wings and legs and everything?”


“And there are things tied around the legs and the turkey is surrounded by pretty, fluffy, green, things?” It’s obvious I am woefully unaware of cooking jargons…


So, he does not really want a turkey, he wants what the TV shows and movies depict as a proper family celebration. I may be able to produce a golden turkey, with silver things and red strings tied around the legs, BUT I would still be unable to produce LOTS OF PEOPLE…

Here is his expectation:


Here is what I plan to deliver:


Clearly there is a gap.

This conversation sent me on a trip of soul-searching: Am I not making enough efforts to create the “right” family memories for my children? Am I guilty of depriving my children of living the “American dream”?

You have to forgive me: being a foreigner or maybe just being plain neurotic, I am forever self-conscious of “depriving” my children of the proper “American experiences”. Deep down, out of pride (which as I am well aware is one of the Seven Deadly Sins…) and sheer vanity, I want them to grow up just as American as the next kid can be, in addition to all the global perspectives I am trying to instill in them as well. I don’t want my foreignness to become somehow a liability. Well, like I said, sheer pride and vanity…

I was all ready to make Mr. Monk the turkey after an one-hour long conversation with my lone co-worker who drew diagrams, even a cross-section one, on the white board to explain step by step how to prep and cook a proper Thanksgiving turkey, including where and how and when to put on the silver things on the legs.  I asked Mr. Monk again:

“Mommy will make you a turkey if that’s what you really want for Thanksgiving.”

“He’s not going to eat it!” My husband stepped in.

“Mom. I am NOT going to eat it. Just so you know.” Mr. Monk said somberly.

“So you just want to look at it?”


Note to Self: Do not watch cooking shows with Mr. Monk again in the hope that he may be tempted to widen his palette beyond plain pasta, white bread, and rice. So far, it has not worked.

Note to Self II: Check Mr. Monk’s Letter to Santa in case he asks for Martha Stewart to be his new mom. Not that I could do anything about it. But it would be good to know if I totally fucked up by not cooking him the golden turkey…


Ry Sal November 23, 2009 at 10:36 am

Is that Mr. Monk in the bottom right hand corner?
.-= Ry Sal´s last blog…Back to that Mail ‘Thing’… =-.

Absence Alternatives November 23, 2009 at 1:12 pm

He’d be happy to sit at that table even though half of his head was chopped off. 😉

Elly Lou November 23, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Is it wrong that I couldn’t even finish reading the post before complimenting you on your mad photoshop skillz? I’m writing a letter to santa asking for you to be my graphic goddess/mentor. I’m doing big ol’ David Lee Roth Kicks in celebration of you!
.-= Elly Lou´s last blog…Thank You, Thankyaverramuch =-.

Absence Alternatives November 23, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Oh no! I totally did NOT do that painting. I wish. If I had that kind of mad skill, I would have been totally pimping myself out like crazy. I am sorry for disappointing you and all the others…

Elly Lou November 25, 2009 at 10:03 am

Disappointed? Pshaw! Now I’m relieved. Pie making skills, mother of the year, AND photoshop diva?! I was starting to look like Elphaba…
.-= Elly Lou´s last blog…All Systems Go =-.

mrsblogalot November 23, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Yeah I heard it all but I was also laughingly distracted by the pictures. Sorry….can’t help it! (-:
I’m sure that your Thanksgiving will be somewhere in the middle of those pictures and your own unique memories will live on forever!
.-= mrsblogalot´s last blog…Eyes on Your Own Paper Mister! =-.

Absence Alternatives November 23, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Thanks for moral support. xoxoxoxo (<-- I win!)

Falling November 23, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Seriously, did you do the Photoshopping there? I am envious, and know that, if I were to have such skills, I would never do anything other than mess with famous photos. I would like to request that this become the first in a series that you present.

If it helps you at all, I am hoping to raise Tankbaby in as un-American a way as possible :). I can’t imagine your “foreignness” becoming a liability. Think of it this way: they’ll be surrounded by “Americanness” everywhere outside the house, so having any thing other than Boring White People traditions in the home can only be to the good.

But if you want another opinion, check out Alton Brown (of “Good Eats” fame, if you watch the Food Network)’s thoughts:
.-= Falling´s last blog…Creepoid FTW! =-.

Absence Alternatives November 23, 2009 at 9:26 pm

NO god No, I didn’t! I am sorry that I have misled everybody. If I had that kind of talent, I wouldn’t be staying anonymous believe me! 😉 I agree with you: messing with famous photos would be a great artistic/creative niche! Like Banksy…

Absence Alternatives November 23, 2009 at 9:28 pm

By the way, thanks for the link. I had no idea what to expect, so it was a hilarious surprise! LOL. Since we don’t have cable, I am sorely lacking in the knowledge for all these programs.

TheKitchenWitch November 23, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Oh God, that is just too funny! Come to my house, baby…we have NO resemblance to that Norman Rockwell painting.Twelve kinds of crazy over here…
.-= TheKitchenWitch´s last blog…Family Recipe: Creamed Potatoes =-.

Absence Alternatives November 23, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Thanks for the invite! Will you make the creme brulee again??!! 😉 I searched the Interweb for a parody of this painting that shows all sorts of people around the table, alas, I couldn’t find any. Now I do wish I had the mad photoshopping/painting/artistic/creative skills to make one myself!

Jane November 23, 2009 at 7:30 pm

This was hilarious. When I got to YOUR version I spit out my drink. (Now I have computer screen to clean…thanks.) But that’s what’s so wonderful about the American Experience – with this melting pot? Anything goes! (Wait’ll you see the version of that famous Rockwell painting I have planned for my Thanksgiving post – not nearly as hilarious as yours, but fun, nonetheless)
.-= Jane´s last blog…Sid Gets The Flu Shot =-.

Absence Alternatives November 23, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Mr. Monk won’t mind a melting pot experience at all. He just wants a golden turkey, and don’t forget the legs wrapped in the silver thingy and red strings! LOL. (What are those things called for real?) I can wait to read your Thanksgiving post. I will be sure not to drink anything when I read it! 😉

Absence Alternatives November 23, 2009 at 9:35 pm

My imaginary friends, my website is broken, I can’t go in to edit or add new posts. So now I am off the hook of NaBloPoMo, which is great, ’cause I need to start reading all your posts. Watch out, Comment Hog is coming to your blog! XXOO

If I don’t see you again before Thanksgiving: Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Unknown Mami November 23, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Your website is broken? That sucks.

I’m assuming you are not going to make the Turkey just to have him look at it. Too bad you can’t just go knock on a neighbors door who will be making one of those and just visit the turkey.
.-= Unknown Mami´s last blog…I Comment Therefore I Am =-.

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2009 at 5:35 am

That is a very wise suggestion. I wish we have close friends or families nearby. Actually, if that were true, I would have shamelessly got us invited to their Thanksgiving feast: this way I could produce “Lots of People” too. Btw, I am totally commenting at 5:30 am ’cause I haven’t slept yet.

Eternally Distracted November 24, 2009 at 4:46 am

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you get your website up and running again soon :0)

Absence Alternatives November 24, 2009 at 5:36 am

Thank you so much! Thank you for visiting. Your blog is hilarious! And the name of your blog? Yup. That’s why I stayed up till 5:30 am catching up with work.

A Vapid Blonde November 24, 2009 at 6:36 am

My parents come to my house for Thanksgiving as you may have read some where else on the internet…and my dad gets a free turkey every year and the first and second year it was 19 pounds…for four people.

Also you could easily do a roast chicken for Mr. Monk and tell him it is turkey. (they are a lot smaller)

I love the two paintings, just awesome!
.-= A Vapid Blonde´s last blog…Observing Superstitions: Salt…The Zombie Ghost Cure =-.

Robin November 24, 2009 at 7:56 am

I’m so glad I have absolutely no need to follow traditions, at all.
.-= Robin´s last blog…Silent Keanu =-.

Jen @ NathanRising November 24, 2009 at 10:21 am

LOL!!! It reminds me of Mr. Monk and the apple pies… Bless his heart! I think he just really wants to have the experience! He’s really so adorable. Oh, totally unsolicited advice for you about your broken website…. check your plugins. They may be the culprit. (I had a similar issue a few days ago.)
.-= Jen @ NathanRising´s last blog…Thought of the Day =-.

Absence Alternatives November 25, 2009 at 9:54 am

He certainly keeps me on my toes. And you are right!! I believe the culprit is a plug-in. I had to hire someone to fix it for me because he basically ended up re-building the website for me. Yikes.

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