There’s much to do around Thanksgiving, a holiday fashioned with gravy and love.
The classic Turkey Trot races. The clinking of glasses and outpouring of gratitude. The bright festive wear and heart-warming fireside hugs.
These are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving things.
And while I do a fair bit of fan-girling over these, the shining epicenter of Thanksgiving is, of course, the food.
In my family, it’s always been a classic spread: the velvety mashed potatoes, the roasted brussel sprouts, both the fresh and the canned cranberry sauce (my sister wouldn’t have it any other way) and, of course, the holy grail turkey complete with crispy stuffing and pan-scraped gravy.
For years this menu stood unquestioned.
It was ritual and it was love.
I’ll never forget the sound of the electric carver my grandpa used to carve the turkey and then lay it out on the platter while my grandmother smoothed out the potatoes we had de-eyed and peeled together.
My grandparents orchestrated this meal, with its symphony of smells and sounds, as if they had prepared and practiced it for years. Because they had.
No one thought to ruffle the feathers of this menu.
No one asked if it was organic, or whether the canned cranberry with the ridge marks on it was really a good idea, or if the five pounds of butter that went into the meal could have been substituted with a cold pressed olive or, or, or…
Then, sometime circa 2010, I started to eschew meat, gluten allergies sprang up around the table, organic-aware taste buds replaced the presumed-to-be less discerning and suddenly the previously benign gravy boat started sheepishly flinching beneath scrutinizing stare downs.
The Thanksgiving menu was under attack.
We poked at it and nudged it with conscious-seeking buzz words leaping from well-meaning conversation. Was our meal “local,” “hormone-free,” “antibiotic free,” “non-GMO,” “conscious,” “whole”?
We were poised to shake up the menu.
The biggest question of all landed us with two dueling turkeys.
In one corner, the blue ribbon, organic, non-GMO, perhaps named and loved turkey versus the tired and tried standard bird simply weighing the required amount to feed the family (give or take an antibiotic or two).
And, as the turkeys played thumb wars we, for the most part, joyfully squabbled over the side dish contenders, checking their stats and comparing notes to see who would make the final cut.
It’s been a few years, and we’ve learned a few things.
First of all, turkeys dont have thumbs. So no clear winner could be had.
And so the debate continues across the country in kitchens, farms and policy tables, but regardless of who makes it on the table this year and how you shake up the menu or slather on tradition, know this:
Perhaps, at the end of the day when the meal is fully set, it’s more about who’s sitting around the table than on it and more about what’s in your heart than in your tummy. Perhaps it has more to do with the savoring of love than the actual gravy—more the toasting to thanks than the seal on the turkey.
From my heart to yours, I clink my glass to gratitude.
I’m thankful for community, for love in my life and for you.
(Plus a special thanks to turkeys everywhere, no matter what their meat is made of.)
With an extra serving of love,
Author: Kyle Willets
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Satya Murthy/Flickr