Today isnâ€™t about the food. Yes the meal will be tasty and preparing it has consumed our time and imagination for much of the week, but when I think about all the Thanksgivings Iâ€™ve had, I remember the people.
The excitement of dinner at my grandmother and grandfather’s house â€“ I loved them. They died too soon, and the excitement shifted to dinner at my aunt and uncleâ€™s house. The first Thanksgivings I cooked on my own in Seattle, I was ridiculously happy reading old cookbooks and thinking about what to serve. I thought it was about the food, because thatâ€™s what had my attention.
Now I have a job where we make big meals five days a week, and I am becoming more aware of the many things that food delivers besides nutrition. I love the camaraderie of extra volunteers helping prepare the many dishes from scratch. A little girl raises money at her motherâ€™s salon, and comes in with her Girl Scout troop to decorate the dining room.
Last year my dear friend Ellie steered us through making 150 sweet potato hand pies. This year, I am looking at pictures of her hands on Instagram â€“ sheâ€™s moved to Brazil because her husband got a job.
Ellie is from Brazil, and the holiday was hers to invent while she lived here. I remember being shocked at what she made for Thanksgiving: a turkey leg in a Crockpot so that she could take the day to hike with her family.
Why was this such a surprise? Food is but a conduit for the connections we foster and hold dear. Ellieâ€™s life revolves around cooking and teaching and exploring the potential of food to do very many things.
Yet in my stilted imagination, I assumed her Thanksgivings in America should take our shape. Now that she’s gone, I see that she recognized what we disguise with our seven-layer starch cake of a meal surrounding a large bird.
Today is about the people. The food (and the many millions of pots and pans and dishes we will wash) is incidental, a delivery system for the sentiment my friend captured by going out and walking with her family in the beautiful world.