Thanksgiving is supposed to be about the groaning table, laden with fats and sweets: first the fats, then the sweets, sprinkled with a few vegetables as the “sides.”
Some argue that it is more about the leftovers, the leftover fats and sweets and sides and vegetables. Either way you define it -- as the original groan or the secondary groan -- Thanksgiving is a holiday losing its way, at least for me.
Like many people, I find myself in a fundamental kind of time, looking for the reason for a lot of things. Why vote? Why worship? Why drive, when it hurts the earth and me? Why go out when you can get it online?
Thanksgiving, as a ritualized holiday, is reappearing on my screen. You could say it was burping. Or maybe I just don’t want to throw out any more food on the third day.
For one thing, I don’t need all that food. I like looking at it and I like preparing it and I even like cleaning up from it. I like the big table with lots of friends and family. I do have a full set of dishes that I rarely get to use.
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But I don’t need more than about 1,800 calories a day, let alone 1,800 calories a meal. The average person needs four acres to feed their maintenance diet; as a first world’er, I appear to use 34, not to mention shipping.
More than the food, I am increasingly bothered by the metaphors. Groan. Feast. Full.
They strike me as more when enough would be good. They have a slightly imperial feel, like the sneaking nationalism of the Thanksgiving table, when we who took land from others eat in celebration of our theft. Stolen land joins the stolen labor from slavery and appears to be making me fat physically and thin morally.
I am looking for a new ritual. But I don’t want to throw a frog in the punch bowl for my friends and family. And I don’t want to work at any more uphill battles, even though I know it is uphill both ways for many people.
As the food magazines advise, I want to take the “frazzle out of the dazzle.” I discover that my frazzle is moral, not just metaphoric. I want to take the moral frazzle out of the moral dazzle and do something differently.
This year, I am going to eat two bites of everything. The turkey. The stuffing. The new side dish (“Everyone should add a new dish to the traditional table, just to keep things lively,” the magazines suggest). And then there’s the pie. Two bites each of pie one, pie two and pie three, which will give me the equivalent of a full slice.
Call me a minimalist. Call me a slow food-eater. Yes, I can take all afternoon to eat these bites.
Call me a yearner for a new main dish that comes replete with new metaphors for what it means to be thankful, rich and satisfied.
This year, I want to feast and groan with gladness on enough, not too much.