Bringing Thanksgiving Back
We made it to November. This time next week, many of us will be choosing our fates on Election Day, for better or worse. The best part is that it will be over. It did seemed as if October flew by. The other day I asked a coworker where in the hell October went and she said, “I don’t know, but I ain’t lookin’ for it.”
I had to stand there and smile for a few seconds because I’d never heard a response like that. It made me think, okay maybe I should just embrace the passage of time and be happy about November. Sure, why not.
And even though it’s been the norm for the past several years to just breeze on by to Christmas after Halloween, with only short stop for Thanksgiving, I’d like to thoroughly embrace the holiday this year. Perhaps we could think about it a little differently. Mainly because I feel like most of us are so far removed from what Thanksgiving essentially is, or was – it has lost a lot of its meaning. It was, of course, giving thanks to God for the harvest, and hopefully a good one.
Food just had such a different relationship with folks from back in the day. They had to grow it and process it themselves. Their livelihoods depended on a harvest. Our lives don’t exactly do that. For example, there’s a shortage of avocados right now due to strikes in Mexico. Does that devastate us here in Louisiana? For most of us, no. We just either begrudgingly pay more for avocados or put something else on the menu for the time being.
If anything, we suffer from too many choices, too much selection. And we suffer from terrible food being very abundant and very cheap. That concept would be so unheard of and baffling to our ancestors. But that’s not what this post is about. What I’m saying is that we don’t have the same relationship with food as our ancestors. Their lives depended on the seasons, on good harvests, and that’s why Thanksgiving was so impactful for them, why it mattered. For us? It’s just become another excuse to gorge on food, watch football and make a mad rush to the stores the next day for Black Friday. We give no thought to what cranberry bog our relish comes from. We don’t use pumpkin from our gardens for the pies, it comes in a can. And even if we did try to go the “farm to table” route and know the exact origins of every ingredient that goes into our Thanksgiving spread, it would be so insanely expensive, that what you should be thankful for is being rich enough to be able to do such a thing. And also rich enough to even have the time to do such a thing.
And so for us, Thanksgiving has lost a lot of its meaning. It’s simply become about consuming– food on Thursday, and sales on Friday. Sure, we might say something we’re thankful for around the dinner table before everyone digs in, but it’s usually just an afterthought. Thanksgiving is part of a bigger season, definitely not the most important part but a kicking off point. So for me, I feel like, in order to bring the meaning back, perhaps we could begin to think in a different sort of way.
For Thanksgiving, we’re all supposed to reflect upon what we’re thankful for, and for most Americans that’s pretty easy. We can all find something to be thankful for. But it’s not so easy sometimes to be thankful for perceived negative things. In the moment, it’s hard to be able to look ahead and see that a hardship actually turned out to be a blessing. And so that’s what I’ve decided to reflect upon this month: how things that happened this year seemed so shitty at the time, but actually ended up being good or even great things in the end.
The first thing that comes to mind for me, is something I’ve written about before – being priced out of the Bywater neighborhood. Our landlord sold the house we lived in and there was nothing else available that wasn’t obscenely priced. Even the apartments that were basically closets were obscenely priced. So we made the decision to move. At the time it was heartbreaking. It was the worst. But now? I’m so much happier where I am. For the same amount we were paying in the Bywater, we now have so much more. Like a garage and a yard. We have remote controlled ceiling fans along with central air and heat. And my kitchen, oh my god, my kitchen. So much room. Too much room, honestly, and as someone who cooks professionally, I have a lot of kitchen stuff. I am so in love with it. And I haven’t even touched on the subject of how awesome the bathroom is. So spacious. Okay, I’ll stop now.
The point is, I’m glad I got priced out of the Bywater, thankful even. It was a blessing in disguise. A chance for opportunity, if you open yourself up to the possibilities. The possibility of not being woken up in the middle of the night by drunk Airbnb yahoos that don’t understand that people actually live in the neighborhood.
The second thing that comes to mind is something that I haven’t really written about: my job – or more specifically, my old boss, or executive chef. And believe me, around this time last year, I would definitely not be saying that. I’d like to say, "oh hellllll no." And that’s because the first several months at my current job were a nightmare. I went home in tears a lot more often than I’d like to admit. At many points, I thought that I’d mistakenly landed on the set of Hell’s Kitchen with a Gordon Ramsay x 100.
Well, maybe not quite that bad, but close. I’d get yelled at so hard, or scrutinized in ways I thought were unfair, and I always took it so personally. But that’s exactly what he was trying to break me of. The experience certainly isn’t for everyone. Working in that kitchen, in the beginning, it was almost as if I were experiencing some kind of ego death, and was built back up to be much stronger. Made of marble, I developed a thick skin. I found my voice, no longer afraid to speak up. I stopped taking things so personally. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, sticking it out until I finally found my groove. And what I discovered was my chef was actually one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, he just didn’t mess around when it came to dinner service. It was never personal. Everything had to be in its place and perfect, which is now how I cook. Even at home, I have everything in its place. Sometimes when you’re lucky enough to work for a great chef, they become much more than a boss, but a mentor and a teacher. A Mr. Miyagi, if you will.
And so I’m thankful for my job and my old chef, though he’s moved on. But I’m also thankful for the perceived negative things about the job – like the cuts and burns and bruises on my body when I look in the mirror, because I also see the muscles I never had before, along with a stronger constitution.
As for a third thing, I suppose I’m thankful for that brutal episode of "The Walking Dead" last week. I usually catch a repeat just to make sure I catch all the nuances, but I was so upset and disgusted, that I turned AMC off and switched on HBO and found "Westworld." It is my new favorite show. Suck it, Walking Dead.
And so I urge you, dear readers, to “bring Thanksgiving back,” and reflect upon the year in a different sort of way. Think of the hardships, the negatives, and stand back and squint a little. You might just find that somehow, things usually turn out okay in the end – better even.
Be thankful. It’s a great way to realize that your glass, more often than not, is half full – which will then lead that cup to be practically overflowing.