You may be all over expressing gratitude on this day of Giving Thanks, especially if you are a yoga practitioner – you are surrounded by encouragement to feel grateful. And so for that, we are grateful. Yes, grateful for family and friends and heat and shelter and abundant food. Oh, wait, food, here’s the catch. I am totally into the sacred and joyful ritual of breaking bread (so to speak) with family and friends. I love sharing meals with friends. So don’t get me wrong – I’m not against eating or eating with family and friends. Since I have no family members to share Thanksgiving with (no parents, no children, not aunts or uncles, and no siblings), I receive lots of well-intended invitations from wonderful friends, all of whom I love dearly. And many of them are vegetarian, or vegan and eat real food, much like me. But for some reason, spending Thanksgiving with someone else’s family and all their crazy issues, just isn’t all that appealing.
But issues aside, if Thanksgiving were simply a day to be thankful, that would be cool. But if you are vegetarian or vegan or gluten intolerant or committed to avoiding any products that come from factory farming or avoiding simple carbs, or simply working on mindful eating, it makes it tough to actually accept any Thanksgiving dinner invitations. If you don’t actually eat turkey, and don’t eat that horrible vegan fake tofurky stuff, and you don’t eat gluten, and don’t eat dairy, and are trying really hard not to eat sugar – that kind of puts the kibosh on accepting about 98% of the invitations you are likely to receive from the old school Thanksgiving dinner celebrants.
I figured maybe the best bet was to volunteer somewhere and help serve a Thanksgiving dinner to others. That way I could be part of the festivities and community, but wouldn’t necessarily be obliged to eat. I offered to volunteer at the Arlo Guthrie church here in Great Barrington and help serve their big Thanksgiving dinner. But they had plenty of volunteers, so they invited me to just come for the dinner. Oh dear. I’m guessing it’s pretty old school menu. I could just go and socialize, I suppose, and meet people, not to eat. I figure the people who hang out at the Arlo Guthrie church (formerly Alice’ restaurant) are pretty cool, and I will most likely have a pretty good time. I can pick and choose on the food items. But I will probably go for a long hike/walk instead.
You may be facing a similar dilemma. You’ve been invited by family. You have to go because it’s Thanks giving for God’s sake, and it is your family (well maybe you don’t have to go, but you get the idea!) You launch yourself into the fray. Your dietary restrictions (which are really good healthy eating habits) make you seem like a self centered, disease avoidance, obsessed hypochondriac. So here you are – at the table with friends and family. You pass on the turkey (your Mom or your sister or aunt gives you that look), the mashed potatoes look good but you know they were made with factory farmed milk and butter, plus you moved up from vegetarian to vegan in August, so it doesn’t matter where they are from,the mashed po’s are out (I tried making mashed potatoes and chocolate pudding with hemp milk a few weeks ago and they were both pretty awful – still experimenting). The stuffing looks and smells delicious and you remember you used to love it as a kid. All that bread soaked in turkey grease – yummmmm! But now? Argh, wheat city. So you stick with basic yams (let’s hope you aren’t at a dinner in Ohio or Kansas where they put those 100% sugar and plastic marshmallows on top) and brussel sprouts. As long as your host doesn’t slather that Campbell mushroom soup crap all over the green beans, you could eat green beans, and salad is usually safe – unless your host is serving a commercial salad dressing (you know the kind you buy ready made in bottles at the super market – which most people do! and many of them have sugar added).
But take heart. Maybe you were invited to a new school Thanksgiving dinner – or maybe you are new school yourself and you are actually doing the cooking!! You’ve invited family members and friends and now are on the other side of this. Maybe you are vegetarian, and making cheese enchiladas, but your friends from Newark are vegan – hmmm, so no cheese enchiladas for them. OK, no problem. Or maybe you make a free range, organic, happy-before-he-was-dead turkey from the local farm for your non-veg friends and make hummus for the vegans. But your dad is trying to reverse heart disease, so he isn’t eating any meat, dairy, and no oils at all – no nuts, no olive oil, not even an avocado. So he can’t eat the hummus or the cheese enchiladas or the turkey. So you make an oil free salad dressing and mashed potatoes with nutritional yeast, and a black bean burger for him. Your friends from Boston, are gluten intolerant, so that means gluten free bread and gluten free pie crusts (argh!! – they ARE getting better) and if you did make the turkey, then god forbid you didn’t use gluten free stuffing mix. And no one is eating sugar (Good Lord, man, haven’t you seen Fed Up?) so the pumpkin pie has to be made with maple syrup (isn’t sugar, sugar? Apparently not.) Good luck!
So what am I doing? Well, after I’m done cooking the happy but very dead turkey from the local farm for the dogs, I’ll have my fabulous homemade (by me) minestrone (onions, carrots, celery, fennel, potatoes, green beans, peas, swiss chard, parsley, garlic, fire-roasted tomatoes, cannellini beans, basil, and Penzey’s Italian seasoning), acorn squash with apricots and raisins and walnuts, and salad (endive, watercress, kale, arugula, romaine, pumpkin seeds, and pomegranate seeds). But before all that – I’m out the door for a 5 mile hike in the snow covered forests of southwestern Massachusetts with my dog Nellie. A winter wonderland. Grateful for warm clothes and a wood burning fireplace and all of you. Whew.
So to summarize and to avoid gallstones from over eating rich food – try the following five tips
1) Be hungry – don’t eat if you aren’t hungry
2) Don’t rush – take your time – chew – enjoy the conversation (if it gets heated around the table, eat slower!)
3) When you are full – stop eating – duh! Pay attention
4) Take small bites and only eat what you like – skip Aunt Mary’s marshmallow sweet potatoes
5) Enjoy the meal, be grateful you have food and friends, skip the guilt!
Now it’s time for a nap and the Blue Moon cranberry orange sorbet hiding in the back of the freezer.