The question of sauce or cylinder

Cranberries – should they be in the form of a sauce, or should they be in the shape of a can and sliced in circular blobs of gel? This is largely a question of family culture that emerges around some tables and Thanksgiving. For some families, cranberry sauce is the way to go. After all, the pilgrims at Plymouth did not have canned cranberries. To this, the canned cranberry faction might point out that cranberry sauce was not mentioned as a sauce to serve with meat until 50 years later. 

As long as we are thinking about the first Thanksgiving, let’s remember that lobster was served at the first Thanksgiving feast. If you are a steadfast traditionalist for your Thanksgiving meal, please invite me next year. I love lobster, but can rarely afford to eat lobster. I will even forgive you the lack of cranberries as long as there is butter for the lobster. 

Holidays often bring out conflicts in family cultures. Do we eat cranberry sauce or cranberry cylinders? Do we open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Do we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name, or New Year’s Day? Is April 1 a real holiday? If you are married to a person who does not think April Fool’s Day is a real holiday, I suggest the suspension of any celebration of April 1 immediately. 

So, the real question is cranberry sauce or cranberry cylinders. I suggested to someone that this might be a “First World problem.” Immediately a look of shock and horror came over his face.  “Really?” he asked. “A First World problem?” 

I was waiting for him to say that this was a much more serious question than a First World problem. Instead to my surprise he said, “You know, the phrase ‘First World problem’ is a microaggression.” For the uninitiated, a microaggression is a statement that is not intended to be offensive, but is actually a slight to an oppressed group. “It means that you think Third World people are too wrapped up in their ‘horrible lives’ to have everyday concerns,” he explained. 

I thought the debate over the shape of cranberries was difficult. Avoiding microaggressions is much more difficult. I don’t want to commit a slight against anyone. At the same time, I want to be able to point out the absurdity of the debate between cranberry sauce and cranberry cylinders. 

Apparently, it is not only the clash of family culture that is brought out by the holidays. Perhaps we live in a society in which the culture clash in general is brought to the fore. 

There might be another way to endure the holidays. Instead of fighting over cranberry sauce or cranberry cylinders, we might be able to cut each other some slack. On the Thanksgiving table in my family, there were three bowls with cranberries. One was a cranberry sauce. Another was a cylinder of cranberries cut into slices. The third was a cranberry relish from a Serbian recipe.

Maybe, during the holidays, we can cut each other some slack, and recognize that we love the people around the table.  

RJ Johnson

I have been a priest for 16 years.  I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010.  If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.

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Volume 7, Issue 23, Posted 9:50 AM, 12.01.2015