Today is Thanksgiving: Eat Pie

Mince Pie

One of the hardest things about living in England is missing out on Thanksgiving with my family in Chicago. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving – the pies, the parties, the people – all without the pressure of having to give presents. And even though I’m observing Thanksgiving from afar, I seem to be feeling the holiday fever more than ever. I think this has something to do with my latest read: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver.

Kingsolver gives a month-by-month account of her and her family’s attempt to grow their own and eat locally for a whole year. I’ve just finished the book, whose last few chapters focus on November through December and surviving the winter months. Kingsolver also loves Thanksgiving, and reading the perspective from someone “living off the land”, I feel a new appreciation for what Thanksgiving is all about:

Thanksgiving is all about what North America has to offer at the end of a good growing season. Thanksgiving is my favorite, and always has been, I suppose because as a child of the farmlands I appreciate how it honestly belongs to us. Turkey Day belongs to my people. Turkeys have walked wild on this continent since the last ice age whereas Old Europe was quite turkeyless. Corn pudding may be the oldest New World comfort food: pumpkins and cranberries, too, are exclusively ours. It’s all American, the right stuff at the right time.

To this tasty native assembly add a cohort of female relatives sharing work and gossip in the kitchen, kids flopped down on the living room floor watching behemoth cartoon characters float down a New York thoroughfare on television, and men out in the yard pretending they still have the upper arm strength for lateral passes, and that is a perfect American day. If we need a better excuse to focus a whole day on preparing one meal, eating it, then groaning about it with smiles on our faces, just add a dash of humility and hallelujah. Praise the harvest. We made it through one more turn of the seasons.

But Kingsolver doesn’t forget that we Americans have a bit of a love-hate relationship with food celebrations, and the holidays often carry with them a fair bit of baggage, both in pies and pounds. I really loved her response to this – celebration is “the opposite of self-indulgence”

For most people everywhere, surely, food anchors holiday traditions. I probably spent some years denying the good in that, mostly subconsciously–devoutly refusing the Thanksgiving pie, accepting the stigma my culture has attached to celebrating food, especially for women my age. Because of the inscriptions written on our bodies . . . we are supposed to pretend if we are strong-willed that food is not all that important. Eat now and pay later, we’re warned. Stand on the scale, roll your eyes, and on New Year’s Day resolve to become a moral person again.

But most of America’s excess pounds were not gained on national holidays. After a certain age, we can’t make a habit of pie, certainly, but it’s a soul-killing dogma that says we have to snub it even on Thanksgiving. Good people eat. So do bad people, skinny people, fat people, tall and short ones. Heaven help us, we will never master photosynthesis. Planning complex, beautiful meals and investing one’s heart and time in their preparation is the opposite of self-indulgence. Kitchen-based family gatherings are process-oriented, cooperative, and in the best of worlds, nourishing and soulful….

Needless to say, I loved this book and may get around to writing a proper review sometime soon. In the meantime, go celebrate. Eat pie. With whipped cream. Cuz after all, “good people eat.”

Here are a few autumnal recipes that have caught my eye recently. What’s on your Thanksgiving menu?

One last thing, I’m not sure if you’re affected by the canned pumpkin shortage, but if so, you could do a lot worse by using fresh pumpkin or butternut squash. I used the latter in my pumpkin oatmeal cookies and it worked a treat! Next, I think I might have a go using fresh pumpkin in my all time favorite recipe: pumpkin pie.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

One thought on “Today is Thanksgiving: Eat Pie

  1. Mom

    Monica, what a wonderful excerpt from “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”… and she is so right. If ever there was a day to celebrate a good harvest and the beauty of human endurance, through preparation of fabulous FOOD, it’s Thanksgiving. As usual, I’m making the pies… four of them. Two pumpkin pies, the classic traditional recipe… a Kentucky Derby Pie (pecan pie enhanced with chocolate) and Pecan Pie for the purists. I love pumpkin, and will treat myself to some pie, you can be sure of it. What a shame it would be to taint enjoyment of these special foods with GUILT over eating them….


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