My two grandmas always used Thanksgiving, funerals, and graduations as opportunities to whip out their five gallon serving tanks and concoct their showiest aspics to proudly flank the colorless yet edible Midwestern buffet spreads featuring the inevitable ham, German potato salad, hard rolls, and pickle-olive plates. Shimmering and shaking grandly like peacocks with bum legs, the mounds of hoofy pea-and-cocktail-onion-filled delights would be manned at opposite ends of the table with the competing grandmas each behind her own home made bridesmaid-dress-ugly abomination.
As the frantic efforts to out-serve therefore out-do the other escalated and the ladles of forced servings and grimaces grew larger and heavier on each resigned face and reluctantly held-out plate that inched down the buffet line, both grandmas would grow increasingly drunker and more enraged at the swelling size of the heap of chunk-filled Jello in the trash can that, despite everyone’s best combined efforts at concealment, could never be hidden by the smattering of shitty unabsorbant party napkins whose feeble tissue content wasn’t even enough to upholster the framework of a cocktail umbrella, let alone disguise Mount Grandma-Fail.
Wagers would be quietly and furtively exchanged among the family members as each octogenarian’s face grew more mottled and purple while their shrieked detailed accounts of the time, number of canned goods, and amount of (wasted on all of us ingrates) love that went into their culinary masterpieces increased steadily and sharply in volume. We would all hold our breath as the tension reached a crescendo and the inevitable breaking point would draw close enough to be almost tangible as it hovered enticingly in the air.
Eventually one of them would completely snap and lose their shit and scream that next year we could all just go eat at the fucking Sizzler before slamming the remnants of her losing entree into the trash can with its slimy brethren and storming off to fume in the passenger seat of Grandpa Bing’s Cadillac. Breath would collectively be exhaled from the bettors in either disappointment or glee, money would pass from the losing hands to the victorious, and Triumphant Grandma would smile graciously and give a short, succinct victory speech that was basically just a complete listing of what Loser Grandma had done to fuck up her Aspic Wapatuli before tossing her serving shovel onto the table and abandoning the results of her own hard labors in favor of Aunt Midge and her bottle of dessert whiskey.
Speculative murmurs would emerge from the bettors who were gazing out the living room picture window while gauging the intensity of Losing Grandma’s rage vibrations and the likelihood of Grandpa Bing forgetting to disable the Caddy’s horn two years in a row. Odds would be calculated, bets placed, and chairs pulled up to the window as Losing Grandma’s furious trembling exploded into sheer fury. As her muffled screams about all of our individual short-comings shook the car windows like a firm yet delicate mold of Jello, a fight broke out among the uncles over which of them had filched the last hard roll, Great Grandpa Kurtwood dropped an n-bomb in front of Cousin Karen’s new boyfriend, and the dog puked a rainbow-colored Jello puddle onto the eight square inches of carpet that Aunt Joan had not strapped down with CSI grade plastic sheeting but had protected sufficiently with a chair that was no longer covering her shame because it had been moved to the window to observe Losing Grandma’s.
Happy Thanksgiving. May all your aspics be victorious.