Happy Thanksgiving! | Civil Eats

Happy Thanksgiving!

For Thanksgiving this year, I remembered a poem I wrote several years ago – about the connection between food and family, between food and life.

My grandmother has food allergies, and for almost forty years ate a daily diet of lamb, dates, and spring water. Period. No vegetables or cooking oils, no Thanksgiving pumpkin pie or strawberry shortcake on a summer’s day, no variation. I, in contrast, was raised to enjoy all the tastes of the earth, and to this day have no understanding of what her experience with that diet might be. But while I can’t fully comprehend, I can somehow appreciate her life through the simple act of eating a plump Madjool date. The ancestral pull of family and tradition cannot be ignored, and is somehow so directly linked to the experience of eating – to the taste, smell and texture of our food.

This Thanksgiving, allow the food you eat to be that connection to the past – and with each bite forge a new commitment to preserving the integrity of the food you love and the land it grows on, for the future. The Thanksgiving tradition, for all of its historical controversy, is the closest thing we have in this country to truly honoring, en masse as a nation, our land and food.

Those of you reading this blog already know what to do: Buy the food that honors our agricultural legacy for this day, ignore convention and include some of your quirky family favorites, forgo the free frozen turkey at the supermarket and opt for a free range or heirloom bird instead, slip some local ingredients into that cranberry relish….and above all, share the bounty so it doesn’t go to waste.

Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours.

In my grandmothers honor

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I eat the roast of lamb and date from the palm and
Taste the splendor of our food
In my grandfathers slipstream
I ride swiftly across the continental divide and
In my great grandmothers spirit
I sit and burn the pinyon and sage with open arms
To the ones from the dark beyond
In my grandfathers shadow
I walk beneath the greatest giant of the earth and
Live in the world of the trees
In my great grandfathers laboratory
I study the leaves of the Amazon and how they
Change in time and space
In my grandmothers love
I awake by day and realize
They are all as close as this food
That we eat.

Oakland, Ca. 2006

Photo: Library of Congress

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Chef / Ecologist Aaron French is the Environment Editor at Civil Eats. He is the chef of The Sunny Side Cafe and is writing his first book "The Bay Area Homegrown Cookbook" (Voyageur Press, 2011). He has a Masters in Ecology and is currently working toward his MBA at UC Berkeley, with a focus on sustainable business practices. Read more >

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  1. These comments and poem brought tears to my eyes!

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