Yep, it’s about the food for Tom Burns.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the food.
Now that might sound like a softball answer coming from a fat guy, but, come November, people are far too eager to start counting themselves lucky for things like faith, family, and fellowship and, all too often, the Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t get its proper due.
Because, let’s get this straight, people – Thanksgiving food can be magical.
Thanksgiving is a North American holiday where Americans as a people have mythologized food. It is a holiday that is ostensibly about nothing else. And that’s fantastic.
Now there are those that argue that Thanksgiving is about more than the food. Some try to cite the historical significance of Thanksgiving, tracing it back to a 1621 Plymouth celebration that even Wikipedia calls “poorly documented.” (Ouch.) Others regard it as a quasi-religious celebration that celebrates the importance of the familial bond. Those people are mistaken.
In my lifetime, Thanksgiving has always been about one thing and one thing alone – eating your feelings. And, forget what your therapist or The Biggest Loser has told you in the past, sometimes eating your feelings can be goddamn delicious.
Everything about the Thanksgiving meal celebrates the transformative power of food. It’s a holiday where family and friends will fly across the globe to sit in a house and spend the majority of their day patiently awaiting the preparation of food. They’ve been given days off of work and school specifically so they can return to a place of comfort and watch the ritualistic preparation of a ritualistic meal.
I can’t stress enough how important that is. We live in a world where, every single day, people drive down the highway with one hand on the steering wheel while they eat a Taco Bell quesadilla with the other. We live in a world where parents happily buy their children pre-made meals called “Lunchables”, which are coated in plastic, salt, and (possibly) soylent green, because the simple act of spending five minutes to make them a “fresh” PB&J just feels too daunting. We live in a world where we largely don’t give a damn about what genetically-modified shit-covered dystopia our beef comes from because… sigh, it’s been a really, really hard day and please just let me have the calories and ketchup from this one fucking hamburger I’ve been thinking about all day before I lose my goddamn mind. (To quote Kelly Oxford, “One of the rudest things you can do is make eye contact with someone eating McDonald’s in their car.”)
Despite all of the Instagram photos that suggest otherwise, all too often, we don’t really look at or care about what we’re eating. We just need it. And not because we’re hungry – in the true sense of fighting starvation or anything. For the majority of North Americans living above the poverty line, we need the food for social reasons, for emotional reasons, for brain chemistry reasons. It’s a crutch, it’s a narcotic. The food both literally and figuratively fills a hole.
But not on Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving, on the best of Thanksgivings, we actually care about the food, about how it’s prepared, how it’s presented, how it tastes. And that’s a big deal. Because, personally, I thank the universe for my family and friends in a million different weird and personal ways all year round. But there’s only one day a year where I actually sit and watch someone make a pumpkin pie right in front of me, marveling like a child at the feet of a master.
Thanksgiving gets billed as a family holiday, but, really, it’s a holiday where families finally sit down and acknowledge the power of what they’re eating. A day is spent preparing old staples and personal favorites with a wonderfully specific attention to detail. The family – which can be Norman Rockwell nuclear, nontraditional, or relative strangers sharing a table – then sit down together and, whether they’re eating turkey or tofurkey or sushi, they REVEL in what they’re eating. They appreciate the food for what it is. They appreciate how the food makes them feel. And they share those emotions with the people sitting around them. The food breeds camaraderie, which can be as nourishing as whatever few nutrients are actually buried deep within the green bean casserole.
Thanksgiving is one of the few days where we actually place things of value, both nutritionally and spiritually, into the food we’re eating. And that’s way, way more important than parades, football, or some bullshit historical parable that tries to convince schoolchildren that an indigenous race actually co-hosted a welcome banquet for their eventual oppressors.
So, this Thanksgiving, as the turkey and stuffing pass through my digestive system like water passing through a Buddhist prayer wheel, I’ll gently loosen my belt, smile at my relatives, and I will primarily be thankful for the food. Because I love my family 365 days a year, but I only eat cranberry sauce on the fourth Thursday of November every year and, dammit, that means something.
What are you thankful for this month? Email your submissions to [email protected]