On Thanksgiving

As we’re once again bombarded by new traditional recipes on morning shows, in newspaper columns, and magazines, I feel compelled to say a little something about that most American of all holidays, Thanksgiving.

It’s Emmett’s favorite holiday, mostly because he likes to eat.  My favorite holiday is Christmas, because I like giving people presents.  Specifically, I like thinking about people and waiting for that inspiration to strike — the mental flash of the gift that the person most wants (as opposed to the gift that I most want to give them).  Christmas always has a little of that tension, doesn’t it?  There’s always that choice between what I want to give you (which is often what I want given to myself) versus what you’d actually want.  Too often we go with the former instead of the latter, but to me Christmas is still about that spirit of providing for another person.

But back to Thanksgiving which, everyone knows, is about food and family.  And food first.  It’s the only holiday that is defined by a meal, as opposed to a religious observance or a greater cause or commemoration.  And since I’m now in the business of growing food, I find Thanksgiving a bit more important than I once did.  This year, we saved the last of the Yukon Gold potatoes so that I can make my mom’s famous mashed potatoes (which involve potatoes, butter, Lactaid, salt, and at least a dozen tastings to determine whether the appropriate proportions have been reached for optimal creaminess).  We’ll decorate the table with squash and gourds we grew, and we’ll roast our beets and carrots as another side dish.  We’ll know the work and time and effort that went into these parts of the meal — because we tended them and processed them, from seed to finished dish.

And in the process, I’ll realize that Christmas isn’t the only holiday about gifts.  That each item on the table represents the sweat and toil of another human being (or, in the case of the turkey, its life).  So even if you weren’t the person who grew your potatoes or carrots, your cranberries or yams, your turkey or wheat for the stuffing, say a little thank you for your food.  Because someone did grow them for you, and the gift of a meal goes beyond a simple economic transaction.  Because tomorrow, in houses across America, families will combine a bunch of different foods, have some people over, sit down at a table, and instead of dinner they’ll have Thanksgiving.  And without the people growing the food, whether they’re driving combines or hoeing by hand, none of that would happen.

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