Why We Remember Chinese Turkey
Remember that scene in “A Christmas Story” where, after a pack of dogs devours the Parker family’s Christmas turkey, Ralphie ends up in a Chinese restaurant listening to a chorus of Chinese waiters singing “Deck the Halls”? Moments before, a weeping mother and cursing father surveyed the kitchen carnage at home while Ralphie lamented the absence of Christmas feast leftovers. (“No turkey sandwiches!”)
But cut to Chop Suey Palace, where the entire family bursts into laughter—and applause—when a roasted duck is presented at the table. “That Christmas would live in our memories as the Christmas we were introduced to Chinese turkey,” narrates Ralphie. “All was right with the world.”
Nearly the last words of the iconic film, these illustrate perfectly the inseparable nature of holidays and food in all our memories. It wasn’t flavor or fuss Ralphie remembered well into adulthood but the beginning of a new tradition—one born out of the mistakes and imperfections of his own tribe. Why is this true, that no perfectly plated potato gratin holds a candle in our memories to Aunt Wanda’s congealed fruit salad?
Because as any artist knows, it’s as much about the creator as it is about the finished product. And when it comes to holidays, nothing is more important than those we love. And for a lucky few, the people we love also know how to cook; then we get to enjoy memorable fare that is truly delicious to boot. In the following pages you’ll meet some of the Upstate’s best home cooks, the creators of perhaps the most-remembered meals in these parts. We share recipes that reflect the intimacy of a shared holiday table. And we get a glimpse into what a family is really like: inside Donna’s dining room on St. Nick’s Day, or Terry’s kitchen during Hanukkah, or toasting each other at the Leas.
Lindsey Deloach Jones is a writer, writing teacher, and the editor of emrys journal. She lives in downtown Greenville with her husband and children.
Brian Kelley is a photographer based in travelers rest. Along with photojournalism, he works with various forms of fine art photography, specializing in alternative and archaic processes. briankelleyphotography.com