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The Big Spoon: How to Have Those Hard Conversations This Thanksgiving


  • Jess Elizarraras
Editor's Note: The following is The Big Spoon, an opinion column on San Antonio's food and drink scene.

My family dynamic is different. We’re a huge family, but half of us are in Mexico and the rest are sprinkled throughout the U.S. in Texas, Illinois, North Carolina and Florida.

So for the most part, the holidays are low-key instead of manic. The inevitable squabbles happen, namely when boundaries are crossed and our careers are picked apart by worried immigrant parents, shocked that we didn’t stick with medicine.

But our bickering has not featured any political rhetoric.

I really haven’t had to have a tough conversation when it comes to the Thanksgiving table, at least not ones that deal with candidates or parties.

During the November 6 midterms, as results came in for Texas, I realized not everyone comes from a blue Rio Grande Valley. Friends from Victoria are dreading the holidays, as it involves two or three different stops in deeply red counties. You know, the same counties and outlying areas where the Ted Cruz signs are as plentiful as the deer…

If you’re a host, I’d follow most practical advice that suggests each person will drink two beverages during the first hour of the party (make these strong), and then one drink each hour after that (make these stronger).

Keep things light. Maybe your guests won’t want to talk about the midterm election! Talk about the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, arguably the best thing on Netflix, and how it compares to its 1990s predecessor. Talk about the new Mary Poppins. Stay away from anything related to Saturday Night Live unless you want to talk about Ariana Grande’s inevitable breakup from human Big Mouth Pete Davidson. Talk about the dishes in front of you. Small talk is king in this scenario.

Set some rules if necessary. For those sneaky uncles who want to rib you about Beto losing, or Lupe Valdez losing, maybe a few guidelines are in order. Politely ask for a truce. But if they choose to break the agreed-upon rules, feel free to remind them that Beto O’Rourke’s loss also helped usher in new faces for 19 judge seats in Houston – with black women candidates the victors – or remind them two Latinas from Texas are going to Congress for the first time ever. Brush up on the national gains (two of the first Muslim women to Congress, an openly gay governor for Colorado, two Native American women going to D.C.).

But if you do enter in political sparring with family members, remind them of your immigrant friends, or people of color you call friends, or how quickly America is changing as you pass the mashed potatoes. Remind them of kids in cages, and how that’s not very Christian as you carve the turkey. Remind them of travel bans from countries they probably can’t find on a map when you ask for the cranberry sauce. Remind them of the last (insert whatever number here) mass shootings committed by white men. Remind them about the wildfires torching California and how global warming will affect us all sooner than we’re willing to admit.

The conversations may require liquid courage, but silence and small talk could be more hurtful in the long run.

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