Sweetsgiving (#330)

I love sweets. But as a kid with a ton of siblings and not enough money, sweets only appeared in abundance for special events.

My parents’ weddings had cake. Birthdays began with doughnuts. Halloween had candy. Christmas had cookies.

Thanksgiving? A total letdown. My mom and stepfatherspent hours trying to get their homemade cranberry sauce to come out of a ridiculous antique rose mold. It molded properly exactly once and ALWAYS tasted bitter. And pumpkin pie? Could there BE a blander pie?

My dad made the only decent Thanksgiving dessert—apple pie. So of course our Labrador retriever Toffee got on the counter and ate it. (Then she ate the apple trees Dad was trying to grow because LABRADORS. And then, when my furious father chased Toffee around the yard with a rake, the racist neighbor threatened to call the cops, because while it was okay to chase a Black man with white hoods and guns, going after a dog was a bridge too far because VIRGINIA.)

The apple pies went on hiatus until Toffee died at age 17. Not just because of the dog, though. According to Dad, “For years, it was all about pumpkin. Everybody wanted pumpkin pie, no one wanted apple!” (Except for Toffee. She never stole a pumpkin pie because she was a smart girl who knew exactly which desserts were rake risk worthy.)

Once I married Andy, we spent Thanksgiving with his family (Andy’s birthday usually falls within days of Thanksgiving). If we couldn’t fly to his parents in Hawaii, his cousins would invite us to their Thanksgiving dinner in the Los Angeles area. Engineer Cousin and her husband Quite White would assign Andy a savory dish to bring, usually mashed potatoes or a smoked turkey. (Yes, the whole turkey, probably as payback for pretending he couldn’t cook for years.) I’d always offer to make a dessert, but Engineer Cousin turned me down. I suspected it was because my offerings were too sweet for the Chinese Americans.

I once brought along an unsolicited cream cheese and cranberry loaf of quick bread. Engineer Cousin scolded me, hid it in the garage, and then sent it home with us. For dessert, she served a pie another guest brought. Pumpkin, of course.

Apple pie before baking.

It wasn’t until Andy and I hosted Thanksgiving that I got to do desserts. I spent an HOUR on the phone with Dad, because Mr. “I Don’t Really Have a Recipe” had never written down anything as mundane as measurements. I transcribed his guesstimates as best I could and went to work peeling.

A three-layer cake with chocolate poured ganache frosting and decorative piping.
Andy’s cake.

My pie wasn’t as good as Dad’s, but Quite White raved about it (earning him some stink eye from his wife). When they hosted Thanksgiving the next year, Engineer Cousin grudgingly said I could bring dessert along with Andy’s mashed potatoes. I brought Andy’s three layer chocolate birthday cake—Devil’s food with ganache frosting. It was a huge hit with everyone except Andy.

“It’s not really traditional,” Andy groused on the way home.

“Who cares? It’s way better than pumpkin pie. Besides, these traditions are all suspect. In fact, the whole holiday is pretty fucked up when you think about it. Who celebrates the beginning of the genocide of the Indigenous population?”

“That’s true, huh? Let’s not add my birthday cake to the celebration again.”

“You just don’t want to share it, do you?”

“They ate three-quarters of my cake!”


From that day forward, we were assigned a dessert and the inevitable mashed potatoes. Sometimes I brought maple cream pie. Sometimes I brought pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust (the only acceptable form of pumpkin dessert).

Last year, of course, there was no Thanksgiving gathering. Instead, I made the whole feast myself for Andy’s birthday.

I do not recommend.

This year, Engineering Cousin is hosting again. Here’s our text exchange:

“Honey!” I charged into the living room waving my phone.  “Either the Pandemic changed your cousin’s taste buds or I finally wore her down with my awesome desserts! Because she doesn’t want your boring mashed potatoes. She wants TWO desserts. TWO. And she wants one of them to be CHOCOLATE.”

“As long as it’s not my cake again,” Andy said with a shrug.

“Ha! I win!” I did a victory dance around the living room. “Suck it, potato man!”

“Good job, honey.”

I stopped dancing.  “You’re being a very good sport about your cousins not wanting your cooking anymore.”

“Because now I can sit on my butt and do nothing on Thanksgiving. I don’t even have to bring beer.”

“Oh, damn. Oh, no—two desserts! That’s like two days in the kitchen!”

Andy smirked.

Until I told him he would make the crusts.


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

24 thoughts on “Sweetsgiving (#330)”

  1. I’m not sure that I like Engineer Cousin’s attitude. Kind of rude if you ask me. Who turns down homemade baked goods? As for your victory and revelation to your husband about what was going to happen regarding two desserts, ha! I bet they’ll be great.

    1. That’s how I feel–like who doesn’t want an extra bread/ cake/ cookie? But hostesses are also under a lot of pressure and sometimes it’s hard to find room to serve everything.

      I remind myself that everyone’s different and that we enjoyed our cranberry bread with coffee the next morning.

  2. Dang! I need to be invited to these Thanksgiving dinners! I was assigned the desserts (no working kitchen) so I picked up an apple crumb and pumpkin (with ice cream). That’s 2 pies and ice cream for 4 people! We like our desserts!

  3. I enjoy apple pie as much as the next fella, but not in lieu of pumpkin…especially not on Thanksgiving! Have you really never had a tasty pumpkin pie, one brimming with warm, spicy, aromatic flavors? Or do you not like those warm, spicy, aromatic flavors?

  4. I’m the hostess this year. I made suggestions but let everyone decide what to bring. It sounds like it will be delicious (if my turkey turns out all right. But who cares about the turkey.) Everyone in the family likes to cook and experiment–even the grandchildren. My grandson subscribed to the NY Times cookbook, and he’s very proud of what makes. My grandma used to served at least 3 kinds of pie. I always enjoyed her pecan pie. It’s awfully rich, though.

    1. Yeah, no one really care about the turkey! But it’s still a whole project. That spans days, depending on how big it is.

      The NY Time has great recipes! And some dinners that are quick and easy (my favorite kind).

  5. I’m totally with you on pumpkin pie — never understood it. Last night we had Thanksgiving dinner at my favorite American restaurant, Sweet Tea & Chickadee, and they served sweet potato pie with buttermilk ice cream. It was similar to pumpkin pie, but so much better because it didn’t have that cloying pumpkin spice flavour.

  6. I think I’ve never had pumpkin pie! We don’t have Thanksgiving in Spain (obviously, haha) but it the arrangements sound very similar to our Christmas: too much food, haha.

    I’m glad you could celebrate Thanksgiving with extended family this year!

    1. It was really nice! I haven’t talked that much in ages–my throat was sore by the time we left (also because humidity is at about 7% in Southern California right now, ugh).

      I look forward to hearing all about Christmas in Spain! Sounds yummy.

  7. Hahah i love the name for the cousin (Quite White) … made me chuckle. Anyway your desserts always have me drooling on my keyboard of iphone. I can’t believe it took them this long for them to realize they should ask you for two desserts!!! I hope you didn’t have to labor in the kitchen too hard!

    1. I did spend a lot of time of the kitchen–but not as much as I spent yesterday for Andy’s birthday cakes. Yes, cakes, two of them: his favorite coffee cake and then the traditional frosted layer cake. So it’s literally been four days of baking, with Christmas right around the corner.

  8. Bit late to the party but Happy Thanksgiving! Like Marta, I don’t think I’ve had pumpkin pie. We don’t have Thanksgiving in Australia and it’s a pretty foreign concept to us here.

    Quite White is a creative name.

    I find it funny Andy would complain about the cake. I mean, holidays are about feasting and eating. So long as the food as good, people generally are happy. And Andy could always get another cake afterwards – and good you made him two birthday cakes this year. He better not sulk for a while

    1. That makes sense. I mean, why would you even import pumpkins? Hawaii does it for the white folks to carve pumpkins before Halloween, but they’re really expensive. And pumpkin is not, in my opinion, terribly tasty (that’s why they put lots of spices in it while cooking).

      Andy is very possessive of his birthday cakes. I take it as a compliment (Baby D takes it as a challenge).

      1. Importing pumpkins sounds difficult and so expensive. And agreed. It can be bland.

        With Baby D around being demanding, you’ll need to make more cakes than ever

If you liked this, let the white girl know!