The more I think about it, the more I realize Thanksgiving is just a hot mess. There is just so much pressure for it to look a certain way.There has to be certain foods, and certain people, and you are going to be happy, damn it. And if you don’t conform, you don’t love your family.
Which is just silly.
If I came to you and said, we have to cook a huge amount of really unhealthy food all day long and then eat enough to make us sick and act like we like each other on June 23rd and if you don’t then you aren’t good enough, you would tell me to go take a hike (or probably something stronger). But this is basically what Thanksgiving is for many of us.
What most Americans don’t know is that what we think of as “tradition” has been shaped more by marketing than by history.
If you do a little bit of research, you’ll find that the original Thanksgiving in 1621 was really more like an English Harvest Festival (dur, they were from England) to celebrate not starving to death (they had lost half of their people in the year since they landed) and they ate what they had: venison, fish, birds (more likely duck and goose than actual turkey – they called any wild fowl “turkey”), pumpkin, corn, berries, dried fruit, etc. They did NOT have any cows, so there was no milk, cream, or butter. They thought potatoes were poisonous, so they didn’t have those either. They only had the flour they had brought, and very little was left, so it is extremely unlikely they had pumpkin pie or bread or anything made with gluten.
Hey! Gluten free Thanksgiving is “traditional”! LOL!Tell your family that, if they give you a hard time about cooking gluten free! Invoke the pilgrim clause: “Well mom, the pilgrims didn’t have gluten, and if it was good enough for the pilgrims, its good enough for me.” (wow, I amuse myself)
They did not have another “Thanksgiving” for 55 years, and then it was to celebrate winning the war against “heathen natives” (that’s gratitude for you – we’d have died without you, then we commit mass genocide against you). Oh, and it was in June.
The next one was a hundred years after that, partially to celebrate winning the war against the British.
Huh, seems to be more about a war celebration than family.
Anyway, in the late 1700s some Americans wanted to have a regular Thanksgiving but a lot were opposed to it, and it didn’t really go anywhere.
It wasn’t until an influential magazine editor (who by the way was super into the whole “women should be in the home/domestic/moral compass” stereotypical gender thing) did a PR campaign for 40 years that “Thanksgiving” was proclaimed as a national day in 1863, nearly 250 years after the original event. But it was only for that year. Each year, the president at the time would announce another national day and which day it was would change. It wasn’t until 1941that it actually became a legal holiday and on the fourth Thursday in November. 320 years AFTER the original event. Somewhere in there, the various food companies jumped on the marketing bandwagon and created the mythical ideal of a turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and all those other dishes the pilgrims didn’t have but generates a lot of money for those who convince you that you have to have their products or it just isn’t Thanksgiving.
Yeah. Kinda makes the tradition argument look really weak.
I also cannot forget that every single part of this nation was basically stolen from Native Americans as we committed mass murder against them. Just focusing on the first year when we were friends (aka they saved our ass from starvation) and ignoring systematic murder, slavery, rape and theft for hundreds of years is beyond insulting. By some estimates more Native Americans died because of European settlers than people killed during the Holocaust. Whatever the number, it is way too much and way too unrecognized.
I’m not trying to be a downer, I’m trying to lay out a really clear and compelling case for each of us to throw off the shackles of expectations (that are really fake anyway) and make Thanksgiving exactly what we want it to be.
I want it to be a restful day (I work everyday with homeless and foster care youth, which I love but its exhausting). An enjoyable and lazy day. I want to appreciate my family and eat some tasty food that is healthy. I want to remember and honor our complex history, and recognize that Native Americans are still suffering from the terrible things that were done to their ancestors.
To get this, I had a conversation already with my partner and her mother. They really feel in their bones that food is love, and to not make me a gluten free equivalent of every dish is to exclude me from that love. I let them know that what I wanted, what I truly wanted and what would make me truly happy, is for me just to make a little simple meal that I bring myself and to just spend my time enjoying each other rather than scrambling to make a lavish meal that I would be too tired to enjoy. They still want to make some of the meal gluten free, and luckily they understand that everything from the cutting board to spices must be completely free from gluten and cross contamination in its manufacturing process, so it should be ok.
I will also have a few conversations with the younger cousins about the real history of Thanksgiving, and making sure they are getting more information than the pretty lie we tell each year. I’m sure they’ll roll their eyes at me, but at least it will have lodged in their brains somewhere.
Last year, Thanksgiving was a hot mess. We were hot, tired, cranky and HUNGRY by the time dinner was ready. There was way too much food, which we ate way too much of, and then lay around in a food coma, too dazed to actually enjoy each other’s company.
This year, I am going to feed myself healthy food I made with my own hands, have a few tasty treats on the side, and just enjoy the day as much as possible. I am deeply thankful for all the things I have, particularly a mostly sane mostly supportive family, a house, clothes, and food that nourishes me. There are many even in our own country who do not have these things.
What do you want for Thanksgiving this year?
PS – this post was inspired by the Gluten Free Girl & the Chef’s post on Thanksgiving and the ensuing conversations there ^.^