The Holiday Feeling Should Be Year-Round

The Holiday Season Was Just Another Ploy At What Family Should Be Year-Round

Why the holidays are an uncomfortable time for my family, and why the feeling should be constant.


Our crisp formal dining room table was set like it always has been on previous 3rd Thursdays of November. Four plates accompanied by stainless cutlery and wine glasses had been dusted off and set neatly, the porcelain and glass somehow existing in a precarious way, even though they stood far from the edge. As the table slowly became decorated with foods like corn, mashed potatoes, and of course, a turkey, a picturesque scene seemingly straight from a Holiday Catalog was built.

But this dining room scene didn't reflect the dysfunctional nature of my family—an atmosphere that existed in the kitchen, apart, yet simultaneous in relation to the gleaming table in our formal dining room.

If our table were the cover of this Holiday Catalog, to flip the page would mean to expose the scene behind the steaming potatoes and honey baked ham. To expect a picture of a man, a woman, a boy, and a girl, standing with pots and pans and ladles, grinning as they worked to create a Thanksgiving dinner from scratch, would be to expect incorrectly.

Instead, my mother and I were sullenly taking turns preparing the pre-ordered and prepackaged side dishes. This meant dumping the chunked contents from plastic containers into serving dishes, then sending them to be nuked in the microwave.

My sister, who seemed to be conversing with the ham, occasionally took a break to help my mother and I out. What she didn't realize was that I had seen her ruin the smooth surface of the mashed potatoes with an impatient finger-scoop.

I complained loudly, gaining the attention of my father, who was busy preparing sparkling drinks in the plastic sports cups we often used. Harsh words sent us to opposite ends of the kitchen, where we worked on various unimportant tasks.

We worked in silence, with the hum of the microwave thinly masking the tension my family so often felt when we came together to eat. This was an attitude of ours not unique to the holiday season.

Due to our busy schedules, meals in my family often end with individual members preparing and eating their own food, sometimes in the quiet seclusion of an office or a bedroom.

But every year, we were forced by American tradition to sit together and consume a "lavish" meal at an awkward table. The conversation's foundation was built on our requests to pass dishes, a stream only sprinkled occasionally with shallow smalltalk.

"How is school?"

"Did you take the dog out this morning?"

"How is your father doing?"

To avoid conversation, I raised my wine glass and took a sip of the sparkling that my father mixed in sports cups earlier—swishing the juice in my mouth as I mechanically worked my way through the dishes.

I eyed the turkey, cornbread, and cranberry sauce with disdain. My favorite dish was the Chinese green beans my mother had cooked in the kitchen— the sole dish she made from scratch, and also the only one she seemed to enjoy too. As I tried to soak the dry turkey in the sauces left over by the green beans, I was reminded of a conversation I had earlier with my grandmother.

After complaining over the phone about my hatred for the tasteless tradition of a Thanksgiving turkey, I expected her to agree with me—that the iconic meal was nothing but a ploy to give purpose to an otherwise useless bird. To my shock, she claimed that because I lived in America, I had to follow its traditions. This came from my foreign grandmother, whose only daughter of 7 children was a 1st generation Chinese-American immigrant. I had expected her to defend my heritage, to maintain a stance that revered her home culture's foods over America's.

Whenever I visited Singapore, my grandmother always took pride in how she could cook an array of Chinese dishes that we couldn't find in America. Her favorite activity whenever we're there is buying bottles and bottles of chilis and oils only available in foreign markets, for my mother to bring back and use.

And the green beans sitting on the table were cooked in those exact chilis and oils. I wished silently that we had coated the rest of the dishes in the Singaporean sauces- it would make this ordeal slightly less grey.

As the plates of food shrank in size, the conversation dwindled with it. We ran out of common questions, and ate our pie in silence. At this point, I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted this family to be. Did I want that idyllic and warm flow of conversation, with laughter and pleasantries? Or was I content with our dull state, marked by plates of microwaved sides and a lacking turkey?

To my family, the holiday season is an unwelcome invasion to our pattern of cold and static relationships. We're not without affection, but the forceful sit-down to a meal we didn't enjoy created an uncomfortable cloud that hung above us.

Our saving grace was the pile of green beans that lay in the pool of chili, that somehow overshadowed the turkey as it became the centerpiece.

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.

Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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Sweet Potatoes Are The Most Underrated Vegetable Of All Time

Everything you need to know about the pieces of edible gold we call "sweet potatoes" and why they will always perish over any plain old potato.


The potato. The heart of the American food industry. A versatile vegetable crop soaked in grease that brings us some of our favorite appetizers and sides. From french fries, to curly fries, to tater tots, to baked potatoes, to hash browns, this hallowed vegetable has become the Johnny Depp of the vegetable family. Now, we are all aware that the configurations of potatoes are limitless, but we commonly disregard the potato's delicious and neglected brother: the sweet potato. I, a credible food connoisseur and highly experienced eater, am here to tell you why you are missing out on a world of flavor if you choose to dismiss the beloved sweet potato and its many entities.

Let me first start this tirade by proving to you my credibility...I, too, once believed that regular french fries were better than sweet potato fries. I scoffed at the idea of choosing those ridiculous orange sticks over my tried-and-true plain boys. I could not be convinced that any sweetness should impede on my savory snacks.

These were dark times.

It was not until a mere month ago that my mind was changed forever.

It was a sunny (scary) Sunday morning, and my pounding head led me on a mission to indulge myself in the finest breakfast foods. I entered my favorite breakfast diner, Angelo's, and waited anxiously for my waiter to stroll over. She filled our water cups and asked if we wanted to start with any appetizers. Before my stingy self could even decline the offer, my best friend ordered a round of sweet potato fries for the table and the waiter scurried away. I stared blankly at her for a solid minute. I could not wrap my head around the concept of munching on sweet potato fries at 8 in the morning. She just stared back and said, "Trust me." Suddenly, a tray of blood orange sticks and a mysterious tan sauce appeared in front of my face. As much as I wanted to ponder the morality of this decision, the hunger began to take over, and I shoved one of the fries into my mouth.

In an instant, it was as if time and space had lost all meaning. When my teeth hit the fry, the perfectly crusted outer shell crunched softly making a sound much like your foot crushing a dried leaf. The now exposed inside of the fry was the perfect blend of mush and warmth that felt like your mouth was receiving a hug. The flavor...unbelievable. It didn't take me long to realize that this wasn't a fry — this was a culinary experience. This fry single-handedly blew the roof off of any predisposed ideas I had about American cuisine.

I am well aware that my fry experience cannot be simulated again by any average food-goer, but I challenge you, the reader of this article, to get out there and enjoy a sweet potato in any form. Stray from your basic fries or tater tots and dabble in a sweet treat which will undoubtedly bring you flavorful satisfaction.

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