Monday, September 21, 2020

How my family finds deep meaning in Thanksgiving

I grew up on a little hobby farm. My parents raised chickens and meat rabbits, and made quite a good go of a vegetable garden on each of the properties they rented and owned over the years. My parents believed, as I do now, that the most ethical food is food they could grow themselves; that meat-eaters should not only know where our meat comes from, but that we should be an integral part of the process it comes from; that we shouldn't takes any lives (plant or animal) wantonly. So they toughened up and learned to farm. By the time we were teens, my brother and I had deep knowledge of local ecology due to our work (and mostly play) on our small piece of land, and deep understanding of mammal and bird husbandry and anatomy due to our involvement with rabbit and chicken farming. One year we even raised pigs to eat, but that was too heartbreaking, and now none of us likes to eat pork very much. We grew up thinking that rabbit was the usual Thanksgiving feast meat, and were eventually perplexed to realize that other people ate turkey.

As a Canadian, I wasn't taught the reasons behind the Thanksgiving turkey dinner in school, and didn't understand the inherent racism of the holiday (and inaccuracy of that famed Plymouth meal-sharing) until sometime in my twenties. In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving very close to the autumn equinox, and there is no mention in our cultural tradition of Plymouth, pilgrims, or any other such thing. Our grocery stores and primary school curricula are filled with images of cornucopias, turkeys, scarecrows and farmers. Thanksgiving is generally the day we are thankful for our food and the people who provided it.

My kids harvesting peas that will make pea soups all winter!

My parents have always been mavericks, choosing, creating and inventing life on their own terms. So early in their relationship, they developed our family's own Thanksgiving tradition: We eat foods we grew, ourselves. We celebrate our garden, the food that feeds us, our love for one another and the land we live on, and our own hard work in growing and harvesting food. In the eighties we grew rabbits and chickens, potatoes, carrots and kale, usually a couple of Atlantic Giant pumpkins, and some other squashes, and zucchini, apples, figs, cabbage, lettuce, onions, beans... The list was long then, and now that my brother and I have grown up to have our own gardens, and we've all learned a little more about the land and our own abilities, the list is even longer. (I mean, who knew what quinoa was in 1982, never mind that we could grow it in our own back yards!) So at Thanksgiving we contribute just those things we're really excited about, as well as some loved staples like recently-dug potatoes, Dutch apple varieties, and some sweet, delicious squash.

This year is the first year in many that we've had homegrown chickens to eat, and we've had Big Monster on the menu ever since we realized he was bizarrely huge, even for a rooster, and way too mean to keep with our flock. But he's only one small part of the fabulousness we look forward to this year. Look what we're planning:

  • My son braiding this year's garlic.
    pea and sorrel soup
  • lentil crackers with chicken pate
  • oven-roasted chicken with herbs and garlic
  • oven-roasted potatoes
  • stuffed scallopini squash
  • tomato salad
  • fennel with herbs
  • apple-raspberry dessert
  • plum-quince crumble
  • pumpkin pie

Yes - three desserts. Between three households we couldn't not all showcase our star fruits! And every single thing on that menu is grown on the soil we live and work with every day. It's a part of our ecosystem. We're a part of our ecosystem! We celebrate living life as a part of a bigger whole.

Happy Thanksgiving to us and to you, and to the whole community of plants, animals, mushrooms and microorganisms that we exist together with!

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