I’m writing this during a turkey hangover. My wife and I hosted an over-apartment-full number of guests last night for our annual Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is not a Swedish holiday, of course, but it should be. Getting together with family and friends, eating the same food dishes year after year and too much of it, drinking… it’s pretty much the definition of every Swedish holiday.

Thanksgiving means a lot to me for a number of reasons, primarily since it’s the one time of year I’m guaranteed to feel homesick. Sweden is my home, of course, but so is the US. When I hear from family about their plans and see pictures of all of them together, I get the lovely mix of wishing I was there and guilt that I’m not.

Growing up, Mom did all the cooking, and I don’t mean only for Thanksgiving. We never had mashed potatoes because she made so many other things, she didn’t feel like putting in all the extra work for them. Sometimes we’d host family at our place, sometimes we’d go to someone else’s dinner, but after a year hosted by my stepfather’s mom – where chicken was served instead of turkey – Mom insisted on hosting every year. She had three sisters and four brothers, so as the years went on and the families grew, it was a very full house.

I brought the woman who would become my first wife to Thanksgiving dinner and it was the first time she met my extended family. After dinner, she told me she didn’t think they liked her very much. “Your uncle reached past me to get food and nearly elbowed me in the face!” I laughed and told her that she just happened to be in the way of food. Wasn’t personal, just business. Many years later, I brought the woman who would become my second wife to Thanksgiving dinner, the first time she met everyone. I guess this is my thing.

Having never learned to cook growing up, I got married at 21 to a woman who did all the cooking. (Paging Dr. Freud…) As a result, when I got divorced at 32, it was the first time I lived alone and my cooking ability was limited to boiling water and baking chicken. I ate so much baked chicken that I can barely eat it today; in fact, my stomach is doing a roll as I write this.

I’ve since learned to make quite a few dishes, although I tend to make things that involve me being in the kitchen for eight hours. That may sound like I’m making super complex meals, but someone with even slightly better skills would only need an hour. I haven’t quite grasped multitasking yet.

Which all leads to another reason Thanksgiving means so much to me. My wife and I are a great team, getting an apartment ready to host more people than the Fire Marshall would approve, and she makes some popular dishes herself. I make the bulk of the food, including two whole birds, and the last thing I want is help. I’m my mother’s son – if we’ve invited 30, I cook for 60. Means a lot to me, not only that I’ve learned to cook, but that I can make so many different things. Yeah, it takes me all week, but it’s worth it.

Speaking of worth, turkey isn’t common here. At least one large supermarket chain realized they can sell turkeys at this time of year, but they aren’t cheap. Nor are the completely foreign ingredients I have to buy at The American Store in Stockholm. As a result, we spend a tremendous amount of money just before Christmas.

All that time and effort and money and I usually get to sit down maybe five minutes at the table during dinner. I spend 95% of the evening in the kitchen and I can hear our guests in the other room having a great time and I love it all. When Mom would host Thanksgiving or some other party she’d often say afterwards, “Sounded like everyone had a good time, wish I was there.” I can relate, although I do make a shitload of mashed potatoes.

I have much to be thankful for but, as this is a blog about standup, I suppose I should mention it sometime. The only real ambition I’ve had in standup is to be able to perform as many times as possible in as many venues as possible, and while I may be long from that today, I’m thankful that I practically have a residency in one of Stockholm’s largest clubs. Maybe 2023 will be the year I step it up, maybe not. In the meantime, I’m thankful that a few hundred people just about every week get to hear jokes about my penis.