Oberlin Blogs

A Very Steampunk Thanksgiving!

November 30, 2009

Aries Indenbaum ’09

Thanksgiving! I live a pretty charmed life: I'm happy, healthy, have a great relationship with my parents, a fulfilling job, a wonderful home, and spectacular friends. I work with people I trust, and I'm surrounded by people who astound me with their passion and honesty.

In many ways, Thanksgiving is the tops. However, as a vegetarian who dislikes starches, some of the more edible rituals of the holiday aren't really my bag.

But this Thanksgiving was excellent. This Steampunk Thanksgiving.

 very long table with place settings
The table! All photos courtesy of Owen Henry.

This was the invitation I received, months and months ago:

It is November 1909. You have received an invitation to a particular
Thanksgiving dinner party in Cleveland, the airship capital of the
world. Dmitri Tarasova (a well known merchant in textiles, furs, and
luxury airship goods) is allowing his daughters, Alisa and Ksenia, to
throw the dinner party in honor of Alisa's 22nd birthday, and as a
possible business venture.


...Congrats! You've been invited to Jessie and Franny's ridiculous Steampunk Thanksgiving party! It might sound douchey and larp-y, but we promise you, it's actually pretty tight.


There will be delicious food of all kinds, including vegan options! We only ask one thing from you, however...

Please have a costume and a character ready for the party. The costume doesn't need to be elaborate at all - the character, however, should. We're looking for...

Airship military captains
Russian royalty
Mad Scientists
Intrepid explorers
Eloquent Noblemen
Western Circuit Judges
And anything else you can dream up!

Franny and Jessie



What's steampunk, you ask? Well, if you've read or seen The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, by Alan Moore, this question is answered.

Otherwise, as Wikipedia puts it: Steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction or science fiction that emphasizes anachronistic technology, usually from the Victorian age. It is also used to refer to a trend in fashion and music.

If you enjoy science, technology, history, fashion, odd music, Tesla coils, and Jules Verne or Girl Genius, this is your game.

Why? Well, as Franny put it, "I wanted to tell and hear stories in silly accents."

So all my friends dressed as characters: old-school madams, lady detectives, crazed tycoons, airship captains. There were lots of goggles, vests, and silly hats.

Two students holding hands wearing steam punk outfits
Franny and Sturdy, two of the organizers, being super-cute. Franny is one of the most energetic and exuberant people to *ever* exist.

 A student poses wearing a steam punk exterminator costume
Phil was a paranormal exterminator. Think Ghostbusters, but back in the 1880s. Phil is also a professional chef, which I didn't realize until he disemboweled the turkey remains, harvested an additional pound of flesh, and turned the rest into turkey stew. And he plays accordion. SO COOL.

One of the hosts, Franny, constructed an incredible world, rife with global warfare and technological splendor in a Harry Turtledove + Neil Stephenson + William Gibson way. From that, people told stories. A few of the guests are involved in a new improv troupe, OBehave, and had a lot of fun with the storytelling component. As a storytelling junkie, I absorbed as much as possible.

Two students pose very seriously
CJ and Phil are the American steam-Gothic.

The food was fantastic. Jessie, the third host, is going to culinary school after college and already cooks amazingly well. She brined the turkey and, every half-hour, slathered it in butter. The result was: "amazing." "delicious." "this is what turkey was meant to be." "NOM NOM NOM" As a veggie-saur, I can't personally swear to it, but all the omnivores did look happy.

A cooked turkey partially eaten
Jessie: "We expected meat vacuums. We're a bit disappointed."
All: "Meat vacuums?"

However, as a vegetarian, there was still a lot of food for me. My favorite? Yams. I have an unrelenting sweet tooth, so the yams, cooked in molasses, cherry, sugar, and sherry, won me. The garlic soup was also superb. And the cranberry sauce, stuffing, rice pudding, and the mulled apple cider.

Cooked yams in frying pans
Cause of food coma: yams.

My family is of the "you make the food, I bring the wine" persuasion, so I accommodated with wine, which was wholly unnecessary. As a California girl, Jessie had wines "from the area" that were fantastic. Carbonated wine slew us all. It was also nice to be classy and have a glass of wine with dinner. Even if by glass, I mean small jar.

After the dinner section was over, before we put the pies in the oven, Greg, a jazz studies major, played some dance tunes and we started to sway around. I goaded Yoshi into dancing with me, then strolled around the floor with a few other folks. Given that dancing is the only thing I love more than classy steampunk meals and casual storytelling, it really made my day.

A student dances in a kitchen
Jessie, master chef, begins the swan dance.

But my favorite part of Thanksgiving is also the share-and-tell section, as cheesy as it is. My friends, being self-aware folks, were really hopeful. My friend Greg spoke about how happy he was to have people to go on adventures with. "Companions," he said, not only friends.

Jessie was thankful for her roommate and for finding someone to make a home with. On the outside, Jessie and Blair are really different. Jessie is bombastic and fantastic, Blair is quiet and refined. Early in the semester, before Jessie really knew Blair, she was describing a lingustics class and how they discussed language migration. It was so cool! In particular, Jessie remembered a slide showing all the different languages and their simple roots.

Blair smiled, nodded, and walked over to her closet. She opened the closet door and Jesse saw the exact slide, blown up as a poster.

"Best. Roommate. Ever." Jessie announced. We all awww'd.

A student fans herself
Blair, a classy lady.

When it was my turn to share my "thanksgiving," I said something short (but heartfelt!) about friendship and food.

Afterwards, I thought about it more. At Oberlin, my friends are my family. They're my tribe, my people. And they're often really different: what they look like, what they do, where they're from. The table had people from across the US, from Oakland to DC and all in between. They care about different things. But they're all my people. And more than anything, I'm thankful for them.

Students dance in a kitchen wearing oven mits
Jessie, Maya, Franny, and CJ doing the swan dance.

Thanks to... Franny, Jessie, and the Knight family, for a fantastic meal; Yoshi, for visiting; Phil, for being amazing; Greg, for kicking tunes; Grey, for the bread dip ; Asia House, for the space; Owen, for taking photos; and, of course, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Neil Stephenson, Warren Ellis, Jules Verne, Rasputina, Alan Moore, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Similar Blog Entries