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Thanksgiving, reintroduced

November 15, 2010

It’s Monday and you know what that means?

Right. A new San Juan Table column in which I’m increasingly annoying with my make your own yogurt blah blah local unicorn sausage laced with salt mined from a rare strata in the San Juan Mountains and ferment your own breastmilk kefir.

At our wedding rehearsal, eight years ago, a bunch of us stood around bewildered in a drought-fried aspen grove, realizing that 100 or so people were going to show up the next day and there were countless nitpicky decisions to make. No one agreed about from which direction the wedding party should process; where the tents should be placed; or what to do about the dogs (this is back when people had dogs instead of kids).

My aunt Carla, bless her outspoken heart, raised her hand and barked, “here’s another idea no one’s going to like.”

And that is how I feel on this Monday, suggesting, in this column, that Thanksgiving be remade. Reintroduced like a wild animal who once thrived in a particular American habitat. That we return, slowly, to the spirit of the original Thanksgiving, which was simply a local foods harvest festival.

See, annoying? Because you already ordered your free range turkey from California, which inexplicably, is cheaper pound for pound than the humblest cut of local beef. (I know this, I called around, and I can’t afford it either).

And yet, I believe that the more locally we can eat, the healthier we, our planet, our economy will be.

Reintroductions are slow. Lynx were reintroduced to Colorado in 1999. The first few years were shaky; lynx were hit by cars, no kittens born for four years. Eleven years later 141 lynx kittens have been born, the lynx are spreading through the Rocky mountain subalpine and the reintroduction has been called a success.

Go here, to read this week’s San Juan Table, and come back and tell me what your tradition is and if there’s any room at your table for reintroductions.

Annoyingly yours,


Also, thank you to everyone who has voted for me in the Babble top mom blogs. I’m creeping up the list. If you haven’t voted yet, go here and click on “alphabetical listings” and you’ll see 6512 and growing.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2010 10:58 am

    LOVE it (as always) rachel.

    the new tradition that is happening in our house this year is that i am processing the turkey we will be eating (which was grown on the livestock farm where i work) — a far cry from thanksgiving’s past when i choked down tofurkey and pretended it really does *kind of* taste like turkey.


    ps ~ posted about my experience butching a hog for the first time on my blog today. holy radio silence. oh well…gotta keep speaking and writing my truth! :-)

  2. November 15, 2010 11:23 am

    I’m with you and I’m also all for the pared-down celebration. My goodness, I don’t understand how it all gets so immense and wasteful. It seems that the preparation takes all the fun out of it for many I know, I just can’t do that.

    We did order a local turkey (though not certified organic) and it is a mere $1.50 a pound which while considerably more expensive than the stuff at the store, its still cheaper than the local beef I buy. And oh, how that turkey will feed us for many meals, including stock from the bones which are later burned for heat in the woodstove.

    I agree and don’t think its annoying at all, though that might be because you’re preaching to the choir here ;)

  3. November 15, 2010 11:33 am

    This is one of my favorite essays. Particularly the opening paragraph with unicorn sausage and breastmilk kefir.

    Changing the contents of thanksgiving doesn’t annoy me so much (my own traditions have rotated from vegetarian stuffed pumpkin to bar-b-qued elk loin), but I wonder about changing the date–or, more realistically, letting the local season determine the *date*. In our area, farmer’s markets have been shut down for a month or two by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 15, 2010 12:24 pm


      Very true about the date. Our farmers market holds a pre-Thanksgiving market the weekend before T-day, which helps. Locals: Nov 20th, 10 – 1pm in the First Nat’l bank parking lot, FYI.

  4. Audrey permalink
    November 15, 2010 11:49 am

    Very pleased to be able to heartily agree philosophically, financially and gustatorially, now that we’re less than 80 miles from Willie Bird!!

  5. November 15, 2010 12:23 pm

    You crack me up. Love it.

    Just read an old post from another blog about the wisdom of living your life “doing the best you can with the time you have”. Evangelism is annoying, whether it is religion or food or recycling or whatever. Just do the best you can and allow others to do the same. Thanksgiving (and life, for that matter) should be about being aware and making conscious choices, not fulfilling someone else’s expectations of the holiday, be that preseasoned bagged stuffing mix or a tofurkey. Go forth with gratitude, it’s contagious. My best to you and yours!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 16, 2010 9:57 am

      Well said. Thank you.

  6. November 15, 2010 1:11 pm

    Well, I guess because I live in New England, where that first Thanksgiving (aka the beginning of the end for Native Americans) took place, pretty much everything on the menu can be found locally (case in point, the organic cranberry farm 5 miles from my house; though now you’re making me feel guilty for thinking about adding oranges to it, like my mother does). But truly? Between the heavy, gross Old People food and the heavy dose of familial obligation and guilt, I think I’m with your non-thanksgiving friends. Crepes, perhaps?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 15, 2010 2:15 pm

      Guilt is out; gratitude is in. I would totally add those oranges to the 5-mile cranberries.

  7. November 15, 2010 1:25 pm

    We are bucking tradition this year, although without giving it much thought. I guess you could say we’re accidentally holding a local foods harvest festival. We’re vegetarians and don’t do the tofurkey thing so our table will feature lots of local squash, pumpkin, and root vegetables. (Then again, I was thinking about a chocolate dessert…not sure how local that would be…)

  8. November 15, 2010 1:49 pm

    Our Thanksgiving will be forced to be non-traditional this year, as my oven is gone. That’s a story in itself, but it does involve a wee one…
    Here in California, especially northern california, I am deeply blessed with my options. This week at the Farmer’s market, which is still rolling UNTIL thanksgiving, there were local cranberries and yams available! Not to mention local duck and rabbit, corn, greens, everything!! Even chestnuts and asian pairs, and while there weren’t any oranges, there are lots of california oranges around right now, and in years past, one farmer has trucked them in to our sacred little coastal town. Anyhow, it’s a great proposition, bucking traditions. It’s all about being greatful anyway – so whatever you’re eating while you do it, is fine by me!

  9. Melissa Neta permalink
    November 15, 2010 2:14 pm

    I’m so down with this idea . . . not annoying at all! And your rehearsal story is hilarious. We had a similar experience.

    My only indulgence is the pumpkin cheesecake I ordered from our baker (it’s how I repay my NYer theft, really)–but you know they use local ingredients! Yay!

  10. November 15, 2010 2:29 pm

    The breastmilk kefir and the cloth bag while contemplating Kingsolver nearly made me shoot my (non-local) coffee out of my nose. Hilarious.

    Being the utter moron that I am, I was completely shocked when I realized my husband had never celebrated Thanksgiving. Duh. It’s an American thing.

    We usually have ham, but dayum, is it difficult to find a properly raised and prepared ham out here. We can find local pigs, no problem, but the salting, smoking, etc. doesn’t happen. A guy in my meat buying co-op has taken to making his own proscuitto, ham and salami. One day, I will be as cool.

  11. November 16, 2010 11:29 pm

    I’m all for simplifying Holidays. I wanted to comment that I voted for you today and that I think your blog is so clever and sweet, inspirational and funny. I have to say I laughed so hard at the post where you mention your friend Steph who describes being a mother and gardener as,” running out to the garden with her nursing bra flapping around her waist, pulls ten weeds, steps in dog shit, curses then gets called into the house as she is the only one who knows where the baby dolls umbrella is” So so so funny!!!!Thank you for sharing your wit:)))

  12. Emily permalink
    November 16, 2010 11:35 pm

    Perfect timing. I was informed today that our family Thanksgiving will include: Stoffers, a turkey from the boy scout troop (“you know honey, the ones Sally gets every year for her family that have such good flavor” they are injected with something brown in a IV bag from China), canned green beans, canned corn, canned gravy and “could you bring bread”? Awesome, good thing I love the family, huh?


  13. November 17, 2010 9:31 pm

    hmm…my mama has turned thanksgiving into a one day fast and silent retreat for herself. she does not use the phone or electricity and only eats before sunup or after sundown. she spends the day at her home, giving gratitude and contemplating.
    i think she rocks.
    i, for one, will be working (ah, yes – 24/7/52 up here) and will be buried in the usual thanksgiving fare. myself and my funkiest co-worker, however, are cooking up two vegetarian-gluten-free-locally-produced dishes, so that we can eat too.
    hope you are well. maybe i will see you at the farmer’s market this weekend (if i’m awake by then…grave shifts suck.)

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 18, 2010 4:12 pm

      Kati, that is a beautiful tradition of your mother’s. She does rock and raised a rocking girl.

  14. November 21, 2010 7:37 am

    A great article! My favorite bit: “tradition is a loud and delicious recording that loops on instant reply in our minds.” While I like to think of myself as a person who eschews old tradition in favor of logic where old tradition just plain doesn’t make sense, I have to admit I let tradition win this year. I ordered vegan marshmallows from Portland because I couldn’t stand the thought of having my candied yams sans marshmallow for the second year in a row. A wholly selfish decision with a size 13 or larger carbon footprint, I’m sure. I hope to be back in a place where local food consists of more than mangoes, coconut, eggplant, and really, really ridiculously hot peppers next year and I’ll do better then!


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