Gratitude with Attitude
I’m crawling out of a dark place to raise a hand in greeting. Hey, how’s it going? It’s Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and we Americans are preparing to do what we do best: eating and shopping. Like locusts we descend on turkeys and retail stores, driven forward by the primitive urge to acquire. See what I mean about a dark place?
I have a tendency towards depression and cynicism during this time of year. All the family issues rise like dysfunctional zombies and remind us where we’re lacking. While people constantly talk and write and proselytize about our dubious consumerism, somebody will still be trampled on Black Friday and grown women will roll about on the ground fighting over the latest electronic device. Arrests will be made.
So I really have to reach deep to import some meaning to this day that redeems it. Thanksgiving, stripped of its religiosity and consumer feeding frenzy, can simply be a thank you for the bountiful harvest we have seen this autumn. And it turns out, you don’t need to spend it with family you don’t voluntarily see any other time of the year. Meals can generally be pleasant times and no one gets arrested.
Thanksgiving dinner is comprised of all my favorite foods. I’ve spent a good portion of my life thinking about food and in the last decade or so, about where it comes from, how it impacts my health and how it impacts the planet. We have so many choices in this country that one learns to tune out the “latest studies” or arguments about organic and GMO foods. Now, not only do I have to fend off emotional eating, but I’m supposed to quiet the political arguments in my head about the right thing to do.
I have raised a child who is a self-declared vegetarian with aspirations to be an ecologist. She has entered an irritating stage of self-righteous zeal. Be careful what you wish for as a parent. Nothing like having a 9-year-old staring balefully at you across the table while you hungrily chomp on a chicken breast. She’s a better human than her father or I, but unfortunately she now knows it.
Many of our meal discussions revolve around where food comes from, how it is harvested and whether or not it’s the best choice for a human body. We have a garden and have spent hours planning, planting and picking. During the dead of every winter, I fantasize over seed catalogs. It used to be a simple pleasure, but now, it too has become an internal argument.
Seed sourcing, preservation and control has become a rather intense issue, as seeds get modified, patented and sued over by behemoth corporations. There are people all over the U.S. doing their best to preserve unique varieties and heirloom seeds, while the majority of food is sourced from more and more homogeneous crops, owned by a handful of multinational corporations.
Humans and the planet benefit from biodiversity. Between the meteoric rise in allergies and obesity and the fact that 75% of our food supply is sourced from 12 plants, there’s a lesson in there somewhere. The dystopian future has arrived.
So here is my gratitude for this day: we can still choose not to go blithely into that dark night. We have the opportunity to pay attention, to educate ourselves, to teach our children about what is quickly going to be known as the “old-fashioned” way of growing food. There are few pleasures greater than the first bite into a garden grown tomato or watching your child happily pick raspberries off the canes, eating them as fast as they are being plucked. Connections – that is what holidays are about, even when you’re just talking about the bounty before you.
I generally don’t do promotions or book reviews or guest posting on this blog. It’s just a personal preference. I’m making a Thanksgiving exception for a blogging friend of mine, S. Smith. The third book in her Seed Savers series, “Heirloom” was just released. Seed Savers is written for middle school kids, although my elementary student really enjoyed her first two books and is just starting the third. It is my privilege to be part of her blog tour.
Seed Savers is about a future where gardening and saving seeds is against the law. The majority of people have forgotten what it was like to eat fresh produce. An underground movement seeks to preserve and pass on the seeds and gardening skills to future generations. It’s a fabulous adventure story for kids with a lesson (bonus for parents!).