What Makes Thanksgiving So Special?
Jonathan Safran Foer answers this question very eloquently in his book, Eating Animals, which I highly recommend.
”Thanksgiving is the meal we aspire for other meals to resemble, and the Thanksgiving table is not a sanctuary from the world but a representation of our best hope for it. Of the thousand or so meals we eat every year, Thanksgiving dinner is the one that we try most earnestly to get right. It holds the hope of being a good meal whose ingredients, efforts, setting, and consumption are expressions of the best in us. And it’s about transmission. If the table is also a kind of blackboard, our choices cannot help but be lessons.
[...] So what will [we] eat? And what kinds of conversations will we have? Which rituals will I perpetuate and which will I dispense with? What will I invent? At stake when setting the Thanksgiving table is more than the placement of silverware. To set the table, in this case, is to announce your vision of how things ought to be."
Staying True to Your Values
If Thanksgiving dinner is the expression of an ideal — the very best meal you can prepare for and share with your nearest and dearest — then it is worthwhile to give serious thought to what you choose to put on that table for this most exemplary meal.
Will you default to the choices of past generations?
Maybe. But if you do, I strongly urge you to make that choice deliberately, instead of on autopilot, because when you make your selections intentionally, it makes them more meaningful.
Ask yourself this question: Is it really the turkey meat and green bean casserole themselves that you adore about your traditional family meal, or is it the sentimentality of having shared those foods since childhood with people you love?
If, for you, it’s more about nostalgia, and therefore it’s not those beans covered in a can of cream of mushroom soup that are meaningful, but the deeper connections underlying those foods, then why not revise your traditional dishes to reflect what you truly value?
The more skeptical among you may be wondering, “What do you know about my values?”
And that’s a fair question. Maybe it seems presumptuous of me to claim to know your values. So let me explain what I know.
Because you are here, reading my healthy plant-based food blog, I know that you value your health.
If you’re reserving time with friends and/or family for a Thanksgiving meal, then I would wager that you value spending time with the people who are closest to your heart.
I think it’s also safe to assume that you care about your loved ones, and want only the very best nourishment for them. You want them to live a long, healthy life.
It’s probably also a safe bet that you value clean air, rivers, and oceans.
And I’m going to go ahead and assume you’re against animal cruelty, just as any decent human being is. If you saw a dog (or a cow, chicken or pig) being beaten in the street, you’d try to stop the person doing the harm, right?
One of the wonderful things about choosing a plant-based diet is that in many cases, the food you eat becomes more authentically aligned with some of your most fundamental values.
Examine what matters most to you. If the list includes good health, a clean environment (pure air to breathe and water to drink), and peace toward all beings, then a plant-based diet may be the right choice for you, because:
By choosing to eat meals that are better aligned with your values, you’re voting for the kind of world you truly want, and you’re doing so three times a day, while simultaneously nourishing your body.
If these sound like compelling arguments in favor of transitioning to a more plant-rich diet every day, you may want to consider joining me this spring for my Fresh Start course, if you haven't already taken it, so I can show you how to make these choices and prepare delicious nourishing plant-based meals on a regular basis.
In the meantime, when it comes to selecting the dishes to go on your table on Thanksgiving — one of the most special meals of the year — perhaps it bears giving a second thought to your usual go-to recipes.
When you do this, your meal becomes even more meaningful, because you’ve carefully considered every choice, every ingredient, and the story behind every component.
What you choose to pass around the table, and ultimately, pass down into future meals, traditions, and generations, has been carefully selected to accurately reflect your ideals.
I will conclude here with one last thought:
When there is no longer a contradiction between your ethics and your actions, your ideals and your daily practices, then you have removed a significant source of stress and anxiety from your life.
There is an enormous sense of peace and satisfaction to be derived when your lifestyle choices are in harmony with your values.
In my Healthier Holidays Survival Guide online course, I teach participants how to prepare several delicious, plant-based dishes to grace your holiday table, nourish you and your family, and reflect your ideals for a better world.
Although the course began earlier this week, the material is self-paced and the whole experience runs through the end of the year, so you're still welcome to join us now and get the full benefit.
The festive plant-based recipes I teach for Thanksgiving include:
And there will be many others for Hanukkah and Christmas, as well as quick, nourishing meals for your busy, more ordinary days, and other lessons to help you navigate this hectic time of year with a greater sense of peace, ease, and wellness.
To learn more about what the course includes, click here, and enroll to join the group today. I'd love to welcome you in, help you ensure that your celebrations are truly aligned with your values, and work with you to make this the best holiday season you've had in a long time.