Thanksgiving is the time of year that family and friends gather around to celebrate all the things we are thankful for. Well, it’s supposed to be anyway. We are supposed to be remembering all of the things throughout the past year that we are appreciative for but it really doesn’t turn out to be that. It is basically a celebration of gluttony. We eat and we eat and afterwards? We run to stores at all hours of the night to get the best deals on useless junk. How did a holiday that represents being thankful for what we have turn into something so far from that message? I’m not sure. But I think if we changed the way we approached the Thanksgiving meal we could circle back to a closer, more meaningful way to celebrate Thanksgiving.
America, since it’s inception, has essentially been a cornucopia of luxury. The lands had never been farmed, the resources were untapped and due to the new, democratic society, the average man was free (in most senses) to carve out some sort of existence. The grasslands of America were ripe for grazing cattle and we consumed (consume) beef on an unprecedented scale. We have always been a society of eaters. Not in a romanticized, classical cuisine, type of way but in volume. The Land Of The Free was full of free eaters and somehow we still equate large portions of meat as being “manly” and “American”. This has run over into the more recent addition to American culture-Thanksgiving.
The first Thanksgiving meal was held in 1621 where the Pilgrims sat down to a meal with the Wampanoag tribe but it wasn’t until 1863 that President Lincoln declared that a Thanksgiving meal should be held every year in November. The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the plentiful harvest but modern versions are void of that true thankfulness. We need to get back to the roots. Back to the real reason we are thankful. And that reason is that our country, for the most part, is very, very plentiful in resources. Even the poorest of us are miles ahead of third-world poverty. We need to make our Thanksgiving about utilizing that luxury that we all take for granted and changing our customs for the better.
Forty-five million turkeys are killed every year for Thanksgiving. 45,000,000. That is madness. In this day and age you don’t have to be vegan to know that meat is not the healthy option. And many people have cut back. But on the holidays it’s a “special occasion”. We raise animals for slaughter for only 1 holiday a year. That’s not being thankful for our great bountifulness, that’s obscene gluttony and cruel factory farming on a massive scale for no reason other than it tastes good. Don’t get me wrong. I am not delusional. Native people and certain people in parts of the world need to hunt and eat meat. I’m not against people hunting animals in that way. But in America, where we know that meat is bad, where we live in luxury and where eating meat is nothing but a choice, killing 45 million animals a year for one event is sickening. We have got to let the meat go and embrace the food of America we need to be thankful for: starch.
Corn is the starch that got the pilgrims through those rough New England winters and it’s still a vital crop today. If we center our new version of Thanksgiving around starches we can get closer to the meaning of Thanksgiving. Choosing a more eco-friendly version of Thanksgiving meal can be a great way to show how plentiful America is. We have so many foods, so much to choose from that we can CHOOSE to eat foods that are healthy for us, healthy for the environment and healthy for the animals (ya know, ’cause they get to live.) We need to center our holiday meals around corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, winter squash- all the great starchy foods that we know as comfort foods. Not only are these packed with nutrients but they are complex carbohydrates which help us feel full longer. And potatoes also contain tryptophan, so you can still pass out in front of the TV watching football.
This Thanksgiving was the first holiday meal where I chose to eat vegan. I had sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, stuffing and roasted vegetables and more! I didn’t even miss the turkey. Because I was, and still am, so thankful that I get to choose what I eat. And eating in a way that is guilt free feels great.
I encourage you to rethink your holiday meals. If only for the reason of your health, which is something we should all be thankful for each and every day.