Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. Reminiscing about Thanksgiving in Rochester, NY brings back feelings of warmth, fall colors, family, tradition, football, and the advent of Christmastime all during my favorite season! Eggnog, nuts in the shell in a bowl next to my dad’s recliner, these little individually wrapped peppermint nougats (Brach’s?) which still make my mouth water, my brother bringing home Southern Comfort to mix with the eggnog and watching it curdle in the glass, and the smell of the most elaborate meal of the year were little moments that tattooed themselves in my mind and heart growing up!
I am older now, and in my 40’s. Mom and Dad live in Indianapolis near my brother and his family of three while I reside in Denver with my son Connor and my partner Ona. Things have changed considerably. My divorce definitely had an impact on family dynamics and it’s been a challenging road not without great reward! Just two years ago, I had my ex-wife of 8 years and most of her local family over to our place to host Thanksgiving. We had such an amazing feast together! This particular day, I was battling about a month long illness of which I was determined would be over with by the time Thanksgiving day rolled around.
I was the furthest thing from recovered as it turned out. I finally and reluctantly had visited the doctor earlier in the week who had given me an antibiotic and a steroid…of which I was still determined to not have to use! I was really wanting my body to figure it out and get stronger as a result without damaging my future abilities to fight off illness.
Thanksgiving morning, I don’t remember much. I got up early with my son (he gets engaged with cooking fancy meals) and began preparing the turkey. I was doing well for the first hour, and then found myself seeking a chair to sit in while I instructed Connor to help create the long list of menu items that would be served that afternoon. Ona had joined the mix as I was slowly coming to the realization that I was needing to take that steroid.
I was sitting in the great pain in my recliner in the family room smelling the meal of my creation being executed by my family. I couldn’t be present in the kitchen for more than two minutes without my body feeling like it wanted to collapse. I took the steroid, and sometime around noon I began to regain some strength. I supervised the final preparations of side dishes, and as the 3pm arrival approached I was feeling like I could actually make a run to the store or something if it had been needed.
The rest of the family arrived with desserts, the tables were set, and the meal was ready to roll. The meal I put together was to be the beginning of new tradition for us. With healthy living in the forefront of my mind, I had decided to eliminate the more than 2 days of daily intake values of sugar and fat that we would generally consume with the typical American cuisine. There was no green bean casserole, no sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and apple pie filling. There was no added fat, there was no fried food, there were no prepackaged foods used, and the only added sugar in the meal came from the bare minimum Maple Syrup needed to give my Maple Citrus Mashed Sweet Potatoes the flavor of maple they needed.
Looking around after clean up, I realized that nobody was napping, and those who weren’t watching football, were lively engaged with a card game. People like to blame the turkey for making us feel sleepy after Thanksgiving – but Thanksgiving is the only meal where people eat turkey and then want to take a nap after. Here’s a secret – it’s not the turkey – it’s the excessive amounts of sugar and fat consumed throughout the entire meal. This information comes to you not from this meal, but from the many progressive doctors in the nutrition field who have taught me over the years. The reality is that if we each eat a properly portioned meal on Thanksgiving, we will ingest roughly (depending on the recipe) 1400 calories, 60 grams of fat, about 2000mg of sodium, and 68 grams of sugar! Now, if you think for even a second now that it’s the turkey’s amino acid called Tryptophan that’s causing the sluggishness after this eating extravaganza – please call me.
Anyway, to connect the dots. I believe that my healthier version of this all-American meal yielded more time talking, laughing, and bonding with the most important people in my life. Think of that! No one is in a food coma, no one sleeping away the evening, just people with satisfied taste buds and bellies enjoying their time together!
This meal wouldn’t have happened without the entire family pulling it together, and if there is one thing to have gratitude for, it is that and the opportunity to create a stronger post-divorce family dynamic!
Without Ona and Connor taking the reigns in the kitchen, I would have been serving just a turkey that was cooked on only one side, steamed green beans with no balsamic reduction and toasted almonds, no zest in the maple citrus sweet potatoes, no herbs in the mashers, and in fact, I probably would have had to cancel entirely!
From that day forward, it’s not Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving Day, as well as Christmas gets steam rolled by the retail industries and we lose focus of what is meaningful as a result. This is now my Feast of Gratitude. Regardless of what gets served, and where I am, or who I am with, whatever I eat that day (and hopefully everyday if I slow down enough) will be a feast dedicated to gratitude. Even if I only have an apple to eat. For as I nourish my body, there are so many on my journey who make that very act a possibility.