Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving? Or Not.

Now that we're 25 days into A Month of Vegan Gravy - it's time for a small confession. I know it seems un-American, non-traditional, sacrilegious, anti-family and downright wrong, but I'm just not a Thanksgiving Day fan. Even more of a surprise since I love cooking and all things foodie. No, we spent the morning cooking (*gasp*) real turkeys and feeding the homeless. Later, we went to a movie, had Thai food and swam in the motel pool. And it was unanimously agreed upon as the best, most stress-free Thanksgiving my girls and I have had.

I have a multitude of reasons for not being a fan - and won't go into them in great detail here.

Well, maybe I will rant a little.

Read on at your own risk, but I'll warn you, there's no gravy; that'll be back tomorrow, no worries.
(As a disclaimer: I love my extended family, we DO get along, and they are not the horrible, inflexible, misunderstanding ogres I may make them appear to be with my ranting. But I still have a few issues with Thanksgiving...)

First of all, I don't consider my kids to be "picky" - nevertheless, they don't like most of the traditional (vegan versions) of "Thanksgiving" foods.
And I see no purpose in every year, imposing these six or seven foods on them (just because someone deemed them 'traditional') when they will eat kale, beets, okra, sushi, hot chiles and virtually every other (vegan) food in the entire world! Clearly no one's in danger of malnutrition.

I know, who doesn't like rolls, mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, green beans and pumpkin pie, right?
But those are their preferences, and I don't "make" them eat what they don't like. There are much bigger battles out there. Judge my parenting if you dare. They would have made bad Pilgrims, what can I say.

In light of that, it seems an unnecessary struggle to cart them off to whatever family is hosting our fairly "traditional" dinner, (don't even go there) only to have to explain (again) that:
1.) No, I don't force them to "take some of everything and then clean their plates" (and I'm, literally, a large example of what *can* happen when that is imposed)
2.) My children are not un-greatful, but they will NOT "eat what is served them if they're hungry enough".
3.) And no, the starving children in China will not benefit from my children's clean plates.

OK, :whew: end of THAT rant.

Second, not to whine, but I have a very tight budget (both time AND money) and making my all-vegan dinner PLUS providing requested several dishes to share with the whole extended family Thanksgiving potluck stretches my budget outside my comfort zone. Especially when I then find that someone brought a "regular" (non-vegan) pie (or whatever) anyway, because they "weren't sure they'd LIKE mine". Really? *grumble*grumble*

Third, speaking of Pilgrims, I'm just not all that convinced the history books have it correct. That day in 1621 when Pilgrims invited their "friends" the Native Americans and supposedly shared their "bounty" with the Indians in a harvest feast? Yeah, most, if not all, of the food was actually brought and prepared by the Indians. The Pilgrim crop had failed miserably that year, but the agricultural expertise of the Indians had produced corn, without which the Pilgrims would have died.

Think about it. The Pilgrims, who came from England ridiculously unprepared to survive, ended up relying almost exclusively on handouts from the overly generous Indians–were actually the western hemisphere’s first welfare recipients. Though the Native Americans tried their best to help, they weren't usually "friends" with the whites, and in fact, those who came within the vicinity of the Pilgrim settlement was often subjected to robbery, enslavement, or even murder.

My daughter's American history book for 5th grade in 2010 doesn't even touch on this aspect. You'd think we could be a little more up-to-date, but then, what would we do with all the "Happy Indian-Happy Pilgrim" cut outs and bulletin board decorations, right?

Personally? I think Native Americans should be allowed to pelt us with tomatoes just like my favorite episode of Northern Exposure. Here's a clip. Watch it and enjoy the nostalgia of my favorite TV show, then read on...

What you don't see is that after Joel is pelted by tomatoes, his receptionist, Marilyn Whirlwind (played by Elaine Miles), explains that around Thanksgiving, the Native Americans throw tomatoes at the white folks because, “Tomatoes look like blood but they don’t hurt.” It’s the same reason that the whole town is festooned with skeletons and “death’s-head pumpkins.” For the American Indians, who make up a large portion of Cicely’s population, Thanksgiving is about the systematic slaughter of their people and their culture, so they “celebrate” in their own way, while the white people play their part as the willing victims of vegetable assault. (Which reminds me, I have a GREAT Tomato Gravy-Marinara I need to share!)

So. I've mentioned vegetables and vegan food, thus fulfilling the requirements for November's Month of Vegan Blogging extravaganza. I didn't give you a gravy recipe today, but please stay with me (even after my ranting!) I won't let you down - more gravy wonderfulness awaits tomorrow, not to fear.


Bajangyal said...

I have been reading your posts for some time now but never commented. I absolutely LOVE this post and the clip.

I am not American but celebrated Thanksgiving once with my family living there and whilst I enjoyed it immensely (they did a Cbbn influenced Thanksgiving) I can relate to your views on how the true origins of Thanksgiving have been glossed over to paint a prettier picture.

Love your posts Tofu Mom.

Jessica said...

I love Thanksgiving because right now it's a chance for me to make the foods I want and the way I want, but I agree with you on the Pilgrim thing. I like to think of it as a fall harvest thing, not a Europeans conquering the new land and befriending the noble savages who taught them how to grow corn.

I don't have kids bringing that nonsense home from school and I don't watch parades or TV specials to get it, either. My favorite Thanksgivings are those at home, with the foods I want, and no carcass on the table. Right now, I like it my way, but maybe one day I'll be opting for Thai food, too, and skip out on the whole thing. Oh, I don't like pumpkin pie, either. Bleh. Your rant is refreshing me the morning after Thanksgiving :)

Maida said...

I'm so with you on this one! Our family lives about 80 miles away and that drive has taken us up to 5 hours on thanksgiving. The traffic is worse on thanksgiving than on any other day. Besides that, I hate most thanksgiving food! Our families are always super considerate and will make veg dishes, but there is no other day out of the year when I'll eat mashed potatoes, yams, etc. I just don't like them. For the first time ever, we did what we wanted and stayed home. We had homemade vegan pizza and homemade vegan caramel apple pie with vegan ice cream (not homemade, but still delicious). Not a dead animal in sight or smelling distance and it was the absolute best thanksgiving I've ever had. Good for you for making your own plans this year!

(sorry for any typos- I'm typing on my phone while holding my baby and I can scroll through to proof read.)

Fanny said...

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving in the part of the world that I'm from, so I don't have anything to add or disagree with what you say. Although, I think it's great that you do what YOU and your family wants to. I think your day sounded awesome!

Susan G said...

I really hate having the exact same things over and over."They" are not happy when I cook because I always have different things. And that whole Pilgrim thing - you are so right. But, although we should be/are thankful for our blessings every day, I like the idea of a day to celebrate blessings! BTW, we went to a very progressive friend's house this year, and had whole grain dressing and vegan mushroom gravy. There was fresh cranberry sauce with orange and ginger as well as the canned stuff, and Brussels sprouts with lime. Also turkey for the omnis, but this is the first year anyone ever cooked me special stuff. Needless to say it was not at a family member's house!

Jenny said...

We are SO lucky to have the 'world's largest' vegan thanksgiving buffet meal here in Durham, NC. We go every year, and then meet our family for dessert after. Also, GOOD FOR YOU! for making the holiday suit your family, and not the other way around. Here's the link in case you want to see the menus. The 1000-person seating always sells out!

Karyn said...

I so totally agree with you. Most of my Thanksgivings as an adult were a huge torture fest because of different "traditional" foods cooked by my in-laws. (they hid oysters in things!OMG ) Once I was divorced it was actually a little bit easier because my kids could go eat with my parents & I usually had to work...a win win situation for me at the time, because money was always tight. This way the kids got fed and I got overtime and I was spared dinner with the odd siblings :)

Now with just two of us at home, it can be a bit lonesome, but I cook what I want. Hubby watches football and I cook. It works. No family stress. I am thankful for Thanksgivings now with no family stress.

I am eagerly awaiting your tomato gravy marinara.

danna said...

amen sister! thanksgiving celebrates the murder of millions of turkeys as representative of the mass murder of millions of american indians. i choose to celebrate thanksLiving which has nothing to do with either. you should check out the book "1491" which tells of the americas as they actually were before columbus came.

forkedpgh said...

I feel a similar apathy toward Thanksgiving these days, especially since any family gathering is going to primarily feature foods that aren't particularly veg friendly. Also, I have to travel to MD and back in one day, and I love my family, but when most of them are only stopping in for a little while until they move on to the next gathering, there's not much of a point to make the eight hour round trip.

This year, me and some friends decided to do a Friendsgiving a few days before Thanksgiving, and it went over tremendously well, especially for the vegetarians and vegans in the group. It was a potluck dinner, so nobody had to strain their budgets too much, and everyone had plenty to eat. Best of all, the maximum travel time for the guests was fifteen minutes. I think next year I'm just going to stick with Friendsgiving.

Carolyn said...

Oh, I wish I'd seen this the day you posted so as not to be such a late bird. Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, hands down, no other contenders (except Fourth of July is a respectable second) but the biggest problem for me is that it gets lost in the mind numbing idiocy that Christmas has become (T-day seems to be almost an afterthought to the retailers). No one else in my family is vegetarian, but no matter, for me it's about the core ideas- giving thanks for the blessings you do have, even if they are few, and celebrating the harvest. Which means you should be able to have different things every year! No harvest is the same from year to year, America! I try out new dishes every year and most of them go on to join the recipe files, even if they get lots of further tweaking.

TM, bless you for sharing your Thanksgiving with people who couldn't make one for themselves, for whatever reason. Sounds like your own was a gem (or three gems, to be exact).