Gilmore Girls – A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving
By Leslie Ann Blake
Gilmore Girls revolves around the mother-daughter relationship of Lorelai and Rory, who live in a small town in Connecticut. Lorelai had Rory and ran away from her affluent parents at age sixteen, determined to make a life without any help. When Rory is sixteen, she is accepted into a prep school that will help achieve her dream of going to Harvard. To help fund this education, Lorelai must reconcile with her parents, who demand that the girls come to a weekly dinner as their part of the bargain.
The most consistent friend in Lorelai’s life—and, coincidentally, the person who feeds her the most—is Luke, the gruff owner of the town’s dinner who begrudgingly brews endless pots of coffee and makes countless unhealthy meals, despite his wish that the girls would eat healthy. The first and last scene of the series is in Luke’s Diner with Luke cooking for Rory and Lorelai, implying this is the natural order of things.
Just as her eating habits show, Lorelai does not always know what’s best for her. Early in the series, Lorelai resists thinking of Luke romantically, and all of Luke’s attempts to express his feelings are cut short before Lorelai notices. This episode takes place in this slowly budding stage of their romance. By the end of the series, the couple has had many ups and downs, but Luke remains the most consistent man in Lorelai’s life and it is strongly implied that they are finally together for good.
In the Thanksgiving episode of the third season of Gilmore Girls, “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving,” the girls are invited to four dinners. The meals are quite diverse: lunch at the Kims’ (Rory’s best friend’s home), an afternoon turkey fry at the home of Jackson and Sookie (Lorelai’s best friend), a meal at the diner with Luke and his nephew Jess (Rory’s boyfriend), and the obligatory cocktail and elegant meal at Lorelai’s parents’ home. To make the night easier on their stomachs, Lorelai decides to turn down Luke’s invitation. In a classic instance of Lorelai underestimating Luke’s feelings, she assumes, “He won’t care. Holidays are nothing to him, anyway.” Later, the girls not only attend his dinner, but return after the evening is over. This turns out to be the true feast of the evening.
As the viewers are prepared throughout the series to accept Luke as Lorelai’s true love, so too they are prepared to accept Luke as the true provider of the feast.
Lorelai frames the idea of skipping his dinner as Luke having less work to do, but Luke is visibly disappointed. When he steps away, the camera tilts down and zooms in on Lorelai and Rory so they can confer. When he steps back into the picture, their meals in hand, Lorelai has changed her mind about cancelling (still #1). Their new solution is to skip the rolls. This arouses the viewer’s curiosity about the role of Luke, Lorelai’s primary provider of food, in a holiday that is all about food and loved ones. For Luke’s meal to be the one true feast (alluding to his place as the only man for Lorelai), the other feasts must be false. In each of the four planned meals, there is a case of alienation or false identity which leaves order unrestored. In the final visit to Luke’s, there is no sense of alienation or false identity.
The first feast, at the Kim’s house, lacks order because of a false identity: Lane Kim’s love interest, Dave, is pretending to be a Christian guitarist in order to win the approval of Mrs. Kim, who is very religious. The three non-Koreans in attendance—Dave, Lorelai, and Rory—are Lane’s accomplices in fooling her mother, as they pretend to meet for the first time for Mrs. Kim’s benefit (still #2). Additionally, the food itself has a false identity. As Mrs. Kim so proudly announces, they serve “Tofurky. Turkey made from tofu.” The Korean guests sit quietly eating their tofurky without complaint, while Lorelai and Rory stand in a corner and plot to throw their food away. Thus both racial and religious alienation take place, and the outsiders—whether or not they are welcome—do not fit into the concept of a Korean Thanksgiving.
The second feast is also false because of alienation and impure food. This time Sookie, a chef, is alienated because of her attitude towards the food. Before the Gilmores arrive, Sookie sits alone at a picnic table she has lavishly decorated while the guests marvel at her husband’s deep fryer (still #3). She is infuriated that they plan to fry her “beautiful, expensive, organically grown turkey.” She explains all the effort she would have put into preparing it, which for her is a mark of true cuisine. Sookie is prevented from having this true feast, and neither she nor the Gilmores participate in the deep frying. Sookie, with Lorelai and Rory by extension, is alienated because of how she believes turkey should be cooked.
In the third feast, Jess is clearly the outsider. When Lorelai and Rory enter the diner it is populated by only named characters, no extra actors. The Gilmores exchange friendly conversation with these characters, all of whom have been in the series since its inception. As is true throughout season three, Jess does not fit in. New to town and his relationship with Rory, he kisses her in such an awkward way that others notice. In fact, Lorelai sends Luke from the table (still #4), ending the meal after only 30 seconds, with the objective of discussing the kiss with Rory. Jess’ alienation, the swiftness of this meal, and its inorganic, abrupt ending, give the sense of yet another false feast.
The last supposed “feast” is the biggest case of alienation and disorder yet. One guest, Monique, only speaks French and must have everything translated. The eaters are separated from the food preparers and servers in their dress and action, as the servants wear uniforms and are forced to help with the “ceremonial” cutting of the turkey before the meal (still #5). Lorelai faces the biggest alienation of the evening when she discovers that Rory applied to Yale, Mr. Gilmore’s alma mater. Everyone in the room seems fine with this revelation except Lorelai, who believes Mr. Gilmore is attempting to manipulate Rory. She ends her meal prematurely and takes herself outside to “digest” the situation. Like Lorelai, the camera does not return to the house. Lorelai does not reconcile with her parents, and order is far from restored. This false feast most disturbs the natural order, as for the first time Lorelai is alienated without Rory.
Finally, the girls return to Luke’s Diner for coffee, their favorite. As they are entering, Jess is taking out the trash of what others have consumed (still #6). This seems to be his natural place, as Luke is gesturing Jess away while Lorelai and Rory huddle behind him. Without context, it looks as though Luke is protecting Rory and Lorelai from Jess and his trash, just as he protects them from starving or eating unhealthy food on a regular basis. Jess remains outside while Luke is inside serving the Gilmores, just as he did at the beginning of the episode. What’s more, he provides them with the rolls that they were upset about missing (still #7). This is the true feast because their long journey would not have been complete without those rolls, which represent the order of Luke serving them food they truly crave.
This episode is a turning point for Lorelai’s perception of Luke. She assumes that Luke has a neutral attitude towards everything, including herself, when in fact he is in love with her. Though he will not successfully ask her on a date for another full season, Luke has proved that he can make Lorelai’s Thanksgiving better and that he does care about her. Lorelai’s excitement about the rolls shows that on some unconscious level she accepts and recognizes Luke as the provider of her true Thanksgiving feast. Though Lorelai may not realize it, she is beginning to accept Luke’s feelings as more than neutral. The viewers will see as the series progresses that, just as Luke can provide Lorelai with the food she craves, so too can he provide her with the relationship she craves.