Thanksgiving, Food, & Gratitude
Thanksgiving is a holiday almost entirely organized around celebrating food, especially seasonal food, and for that reason I love it above all other holidays. I recently met with my farm mentor from Wisconsin, Rink DaVee of Shooting Star Farm in Mineral Point, a fellow Grinnell College alum. In our conversation, I said that I want my customers to see that food is not just another consumer choice, that it is more fundamental than that. Food is fundamental. He suggested maybe that should be the farm tagline! In any case, I think seeing food as central to our lives, as life giving and life affirming, as a pivot point of relationship, solace, love, affection, creativity, and spiritual nourishment is key to a resilient happiness. This feels true now more than ever in a world of empty consumerism, political uncertainty and frustration, and disconnection from many of the sources of our standard of living.
Its a time for gratitude for good food, food that we know and trust the origins of, and gratitude for the good people we get to share it with. Add this word to your vocabulary if it isn't already there: commensality. Its the practice of eating together or a social group that eats together. What could be a more fundamental human activity than that? So much about what it means to be human has changed through history, but commensality remains what it ever was. Breaking bread together. When the history of Thanksgiving comes up, rather than thinking about the history of the Pilgrims, who represent the start of the incursion of white Europeans into North America and the displacement of indigenous Native Americans from their homes, I'd rather think of this holiday as a celebration of commensality in all times. Maybe in particular that mythic time when the Native Americans and Piligrims, in the midst of the strife and violence that proceeded their meeting and was to follow, got together to eat in peace. Before industrialization, when people more followed the rhythm of the seasons and agriculture, feast days were abundant, scattered throughout the calendar. I recently read that 13th century European peasants took an average of 160 days off a year for festivals and celebrations. We don't have very many feast days anymore. Thanksgiving is one of them.
A few notes on the produce in this Thanksgiving share: If you've never used fresh pumpkin before for pie or other pumpkin recipes, its easy! Just roast the pumpkin till soft, peel off the skin, and puree. Pie pumpkins are sweeter than ornamental pumpkins and can be used just like any other winter squash. The Recipe of the Week in the side bar is a favorite savory pumpkin recipe of mine. The soup/stew kit is a combo of root vegetables that make a great flavor base for soups and stews (along with garlic and onion) or are great roasted together. If you're making a turkey this holiday, consider chopping these up and roasting in the turkey pan (along with potatoes, onions, garlic, and rosemary!). Celeriac or celery root - think of it as celery in root form. In addition to roasting, it makes a WONDERFUL soup. If you're preparing a turkey, rosemary can be added to a dry or wet brine (I highly recommend dry brining), or stuffed inside the turkey when roasting. The pears also work well as a turkey stuffing. The pears are from a long-standing tree on the farm, an unknown variety that does not begin to ripen until it has experienced a frost (which I just figured out this year). If anyone thinks they know what variety it is, I would love to hear from you! Finally, the Redbor kale comes to you as the whole top of a plant, the final harvest of these plants as the season winds down for them. You can put it in a vase for a seasonal decoration and/or use the leaves as a cooking green and raw garnish.