For many, Thanksgiving conjures up images of sweet potato pie, good company and relaxing in a tryptophan-induced state in front of a TV tuned to football. For me, it's Popeyes.
Yes, the Cajun-inspired fried chicken chain never fails to give me the warm holiday fuzzies, because their turkeys are front and center at the Haskins family Thanksgiving table. It's a tradition that began in jest, but has become a source of bonding for me and my parents. And it suits us perfectly -- an offbeat turkey for a quirky family.
I first proposed the idea in high school, having spotted some mouthwatering posters for Cajun deep-fried Thanksgiving turkeys at a local Popeyes franchise. My mom was offended. Would I seriously choose fast food over her lovingly prepared, if admittedly slightly dry, turkey? I didn't want to answer truthfully. But for years I pleaded, both to playfully torment my mom and because a Cajun deep-fried turkey really did sound delicious.
"Moooom, can we get a Popeye's turkey this year?" I would beg each time we passed the restaurant, my nose pressed against the car window with the smell of Louisiana goodness wafting in.
"Absolutely not," she'd scoff, and the car would zoom past the Popeyes, the scent of oily, fragrant chicken trailing us. End of discussion.
But my only child charm and the impending thought of my last Thanksgiving at home before heading to college coerced my mom into granting one silly request before our little family split up. So for Thanksgiving of my senior year, my mom relented, stuck a Popeyes turkey in the oven, and several hours later, we enjoyed (somebody else's) scrumptious home cooking. (But as far as I'm concerned, putting something in the oven totally counts as cooking. And by that token, mom cooks a mean bird.)
We've all grown fond of the Popeyes turkey, and dare I say, proud, of our odd family practice. I don't like homemade cranberry sauce. But I do like deep-fried turkey with a side of mashed potatoes and spicy gravy. If it works for my family, why bother with a Rockwell portrait spread? Even my dad, who always claims to be on some sort of diet, delights in the now almost annual treat.
Everyone has their own endearing shortcut that makes their meal their own, I've found. The only Thanksgiving I spent at college, a beloved professor let me and a few students in on his little secret. Two words: Boston Market.
It's these imperfections that make family traditions so memorable. I'm sure some mythologically flawless families would be horrified by our low-key holiday, but we're the ones who are enjoying every last bite. It's your family tradition -- I say, really make it one that you can look back on fondly, no matter what that entails.
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