Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year—and it has nothing at all to do with the turkey. For me it is all about family traditions. Thanksgiving has always signified a time for family and loved ones. It’s about gathering around the living room and reconnecting with kids and people you love. It’s about watching the Macy’s parade and the football games and going for a long walk on a cool, brisk November afternoon.
There was a time when Thanksgiving was all about feasting and gorging on sugary, fat-laden foods. I have now altered my thinking. The food is still an important part of the day but now the table overflows with healthier choices. This year I will be baking my desserts with brown rice or maple syrup. My stuffing will be made with healthy oil and filled with chestnuts and wild and brown rice. There will be brussel sprouts and cauliflower mash and small sugar pumpkins filled with a delectable vegan stuffing. The creamy mushroom soup won’t have a spot of cream. Eating this way will not only make me feel better the day after but also feel good about feeding my family healthier versions of the traditional Thanksgiving feast.
Historically, Thanksgiving is the time we celebrate the harvest and give thanks. Although the colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared a harvest meal in early Colonial times, it was President Lincoln who first proclaimed Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday to be celebrated every November. The meal the Pilgrims and Native Americans ate was probably very different from what we eat today. “Turkey” was a generic term for any wild fowl and it is reported that they ate wild duck, geese and venison. It is unlikely that they ate pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving meal because they had exhausted their supply of flour. The pumpkin “squash” was probably part of that feast. Its origins date from Mexico almost 9,000 years ago and it had been cultivated by Native Americans for hundreds of years before Europeans arrived on these shores. It was usually eaten roasted or boiled and was often the only food available during the harsh New England winters. The first Thanksgiving meal certainly included lobster, dried fruit, clams and plums. Since there were no pesticides and they ate only foods they had farmed, their diets were perfectly organic and locally grown.
Thanksgiving is a time of the year for reflection and expressions of gratitude. But why leave that to just one day a year? Before getting out of bed each morning, think of one thing in your life that you are grateful for. For me, it is my health, my family, my wonderful partner of over forty years, my home and my children. As I add to my gratitude list, I become keenly aware of how fortunate I am. My husband has always had a rosy attitude towards life. He doesn’t think that the glass is just half-full, he sees it as overflowing. I have to concede that he’s right. Keep a positive attitude.
As soon as the Thanksgiving weekend ends, most of us start thinking about the December holidays. Hanukah comes early this year and with it dishes of potato latkes and apple sauce. Christmas follows with endless holiday parties filled with sugary and fatty foods. I will not give in to temptation and will socialize simply to spend time with friends and colleagues. Eating is something I do when I am hungry and need to nourish myself. Although it is easy to forget, I try to remember to eat and live mindfully even during the holidays. So, take a deep breath and relax a bit before you head out to celebrate the season and remember to always take care of yourself.