"Here, my dear," Mrs. Wilson said, handing me a brush. "You just dip the brush into this paste, and baste the turkey like so."
I watched her baste the bird with practiced strokes and tried not to turn away or wrinkle my nose. Being Indian, Hindu and vegetarian, I had never touched a turkey before. But Mrs. Wilson was working so hard to include me in her family's Thanksgiving I didn't have the heart to tell her that I felt queasy, not thankful, at the opportunity to baste. So baste I did, taking care not to let my fingers come in contact with any part of the bird.
The Wilsons were an old New England family who "adopted" me when I came to Mount Holyoke as a student 15 years ago. On Thanksgiving Day, Mr. Wilson picked me up at my dorm and drove me to their Colonial home, where relatives asked polite questions about India. Crystal decanters clinked by the fireplace as the men helped themselves to drinks and discussed golf, politics, taxes and horses, but never each other. Women wearing smart, sensible clothes bustled around, laying china and silver on a cherry dining table that seated 15. Silver swans held place cards, and a large silver rabbit displayed a menu that never changed during the five Thanksgivings I spent there. Everything was so civilized compared to my family's feasts in India, where a hot, chaotic kitchen filled with sweaty, harassed cooks turned out vast quantities of food, where relatives insulted each other, abused the servants or went off in a huff never to return. So this is America, I thought.