The past couple of days have been a monsoon of food preparation around here and the sink seems to be filling itself up with implements in various stages of encrustation: every skillet pan we own, the blender (three times over), the Kitchenaid mixer bowl, whisks, spatulas, knives, the slow cooker, wooden spoons, baking pans, and on and on. We had Thanksgiving dinner with my mother last night, for which I made tofu filled with a brown rice-veggie stuffing, an attempt at this decidedly non-vegan, Lipton-y noodle dish my mother used to make (wasn't as good, I have to admit, but I think it can be if I tinker with it a little) and a soy pumpkin ice cream pie from a cute local shop, The Brown Cow. Today is our main Thanksgiving meal. We will be joining friends for a vegan Thanksgiving meal together. This is one of my favorite days of the year.
We have been sharing Thanksgiving together for - who knows? - maybe ten years. There are usually about thirty of us who gather for this meal, many of whom have family out of town, and many others who just can't bare the gory sight of a bird's carcass on a day that is supposed to be about gratitude. [That last part is in full knowledge of all the plagues and violence and Howard Zinn-type of information we now have about the founding of this country; I meant more the revised version that Marcy lectured that ingrate Peppermint Patty about at Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving fiasco.] For this meal, our group of assorted friends morphs into a family for the night, a family of the best kind: a consciously created one. It is always an impressive feast. This year I made a white bean cassoulet with what I think will be a fantastic tempeh-shallot confit (this is from Robin Robertson's wonderful slow-cooker cookbook), a clementine orange and pomegranate kanten and a pumpkin-lemon swirl cheesecake. These items will share the stage with dozens of lovely, hearty dishes. As Sly Stone sang, everybody is a star. It will be beautiful as it always is on Thanksgiving.
Some people are surprised that I don't spend Thanksgiving Day with my mother and biological family. It took us a while to decide to cut-and-run but since we did it, Thanksgiving has transformed from one of my most loathed days of the year into one of my most favorite. I will always remember being the fifteen-year-old lone vegetarian at the Thanksgiving table and told to "eat around it" with "it" being in nearly everything in addition to the main course: the gravy, the stuffing, even pieces in the rice. Um, could you pass the cranberry sauce? No turkey there, right? It is not usually fun for omnivores to chow down in front of vegans on Thanksgiving either, let's be honest about it, as we are the elephant in the room, seemingly ever-ready to pop a Meet Your Meat video in the family VCR or sighing melodramatically in disgust. (I think that there were probably a few years there where I was covered in graphic buttons and an insufferable dinner guest.) Given all that, when we finally bit the bullet and said, "You know what? I think we'll just go to the vegan Thanksgiving this year," there was palpable relief felt by everyone. This way, they can eat their bird carcass in relative peace and we can enjoy all the good stuff. (Yes, I cannot resist the lure of the snark, even today.) My mother does have my brother and his wife's extended family of TV-watching-enthusiasts to celebrate the day with, though, so she's not alone. See? Everyone's happy. (I realize how arrogant I sound, especially to my dear friend, O. - no, she's not Oprah - who is probably reading this right now saying, See how self-righteous you sound? based on a conversation we had earlier in the week. Yes, dear O., I am painfully aware but I have to ask: is it possible for me to have certain values and a consistency of applying these values to my life without being labeled self-righteous? Given the framing of the debate, it seems that I am self-righteous if I am consistent and hypocritical if I am not. Can I possibly win - or, rather, not lose - in this situation? It seems that either way is designed for me to lose. I say this with love, of course, O., as well as my patented blend of self-righteousness and arrogance...)
Confusing parenthetical asides notwithstanding, I have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. They are, in no particular order:
My wonderful husband, who just gets. um, wonderfuller every year. We have gone through some dark times the past couple of years, but we have done it together and with new grace each time. That being said, we could both use a little less wisdom these days, and it certainly seems like we're on this path. I love him so much.
My son, who has enriched my life in so many ways that to speak of it is diminishing. He has taught me more about what I want in my life - and what I do not want - than anyone else ever could. He fills my heart, and this is where I turn into a walking John Denver song, so I will stop.
My friends, who are such a unique, smart and kick-ass group of people. Whether they agree with me or challenge me, they are always cherished and loved.
My animals, who teach me to curl up in the sun and give back everything I get many times over.
That lovable wingnut Sarah Palin, for throwing the election, and Barack Obama for being there when she threw it. For the rest of the country for finally, finally waking up.
For my health and energy, always in abundance.
For finishing the first draft of my novel and for the people who have supported me throughout.
For my new red hat with pink cat ears from the crafter from Madison.
For creative inspiration, wherever I find it.
For my renewed commitment to getting published.
For the sense of optimism and hope that is so much more bountiful this year.
May you all have a cozy and meaningful Thanksgiving this year.