Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving is Dead to me.

I started thinking about this at length over the last few weeks. How was I going to survive Thanksgiving. Well I dont have to worry about it, because Thanksgiving is officially dead to me.

Lets go back a few years and explain this infatuation I have had with Thanksgiving. (yes,.. had).  For as long as I can remember growing up, Thanksgiving was always spent at home.  We never had big groups, crowds, parties, etc.  We have had random family members come and go, Uncles, Aunts, Grandparents, etc.  For the most-part it was the 5 of us as the core team.  Thanksgiving was about the meal.  It was a feast.  We made a point to eat early enough, so we could eat at least two more times before passing out in a coma.  Although sometimes we had to be revived from our respective coma's, in order to eat more.  Friday was never spent getting up early and shopping, it was meant to continue the feast we started the day before, and we'd do it all over again, Friday, Saturday, and turkey permitting, we'd keep going until it was gone.  It was my dad's favorite meal of the year, and it became all of ours as well.  It was probably my favorite single holiday of the year. (We'll blog Xmas next month)

As we grew up, and moved out, spending Thanksgiving together became increasingly difficult, impractical, etc. I started adopting the same practice in my own house though. I resisted travel for the mopstpart, and made this a home holiday centered around the meal.  About 5 years ago I tried my hand at making the meal myself.  This wasn't the ideal situation, as I was recently separated, I had a small crappy apartment in a Cincinnati ghetto, but I was damn sure having Thanksgiving. Even if it was only for me and my dogs (Toby, Cleo and Whiskey from LtoR).  So I did it, I decided the night before it was on, so I headed to the grocery store, and picked up everything I needed.  I made an 18lb bird, stuffing, potatoes, mac and cheese, green bean casserole, biscuits, cranberries, and a couple of bottles of Riesling (I didn't make those).  I made enough food for about 8-12 people, but here I was in my apt. up at 6am creating this huge feast for me and the hounds.  It was somewhat amusing that I stat down to eat about 3pm and I was done at about 3:10pm. Well that was a lot of work, but I succeeded in feeding myself for the next 4 days with nothing but turkey.

Over the next few years as my life grew a little more settled, I maintained this tradition and made this meal every Thanksgiving. I made it also on one Christmas, and even an Easter Sunday.  That was the infamous weekend where my golden retriever (Cleo) got into the trash and ate the entire turkey carcass, every bone, every last bit of a 20lb bird, my dog ate. I can only imagine the scene sometime 3 or 4 in the morning, this possessed retriever consuming this entire bird, fending off my my other two dogs, because I know they didn't get a morsel. She was fine though, based on the laughter on the other end of the phone when I called the vet to inquire about what to do when a dog consumes an entire turkey carcass. Although she didn't eat anything else for a week. (I digress)

The last few years were altogether different, my new wife had a tradition which was diametrically opposed to mine.  Mine was about staying home and feasting, hers was about spending the day at her uncles, with most of her immediate family (like my family times 10). I resisted this event as best I could. I could not fathom the idea of going to a Thanksgiving dinner, and having the meal start and end there.  No leftovers? No gorging for days? What kind of tradition is that?  This is the not MY holiday.  All I can do is what I do best; sulk, get moody, and then try to make my wife feel guilty for a few days (I am a little shit sometimes).

So in April of this year I went Vegan (we all know this), and early on in this process, I remember talking to my wife that Thanksgiving was going to remain an exception to the vegan rule, and we were still going to cook a turkey. I think I locked that little secret away in my head and maybe it gave my psyche a little something to look forward to.  So it wasn't until the last few weeks until it really started to hit home for me that I was not going to enjoying my traditional Thanksgiving.  I've been sticking tight to twitter the last few weeks watching what all of my "vegans" will be doing, and the stories are mixed.  Some of them are creating these monumental feasts that would do any vegan proud. Some are having mixed engagements with family, and others, like myself, are suffering an Omni feast as one in the distinct minority.  So I'm torn, because I dont want to take away from any of the hard work of the last 8 month, but man would I enjoy a nice turkey dinner.  Still I am tempted and haunted by food. But I know better than to even allow myself one little indiscretion.  After all, you know how much I love more.

So this evening I got into a calm discussion with my wife about what this holiday means to me, and it became abundantly clear to me that when you took away all of the food from this holiday, there really wasn't much a holiday for me.  As I know it, Thanksgiving died for me, and would forever change from this day on.  So on Thanksgiving, when we head over to her uncles house, I don't see it as being a such a big deal now, I'll pack some PB&J's, a Jokerz, and snack on some veggies and salad when I get there, and then just hang out and drink.  Its just a party, its not Thanksgiving (as I know it). Thanksgiving was dead.

I laughed when I said it, but I quickly realized that I meant it. I thought back about this holiday, and it was always a few things to me. It was a nice long weekend away from school or work, and,.. well you know.. the food.  Now don't misunderstand me and think that Thanksgiving meant so little to me.  Well,... maybe it was a shallow, self serving holiday for me.  Maybe I never really thought about a greater meaning, or looked beyond the gluttony.  Food was/is a huge part of my life. A food centric event to me is a big event, not to be taken lightly.  When the food is taken away, the event goes on life support. In this case, I pulled the plug.  I declared it nothing more than a long weekend. Dead I tell ya....

So I wanted to leave it there, declare it dead, and dismiss the whole weekend and start thinking about Christmas (its not dead yet, although I cant guarantee its fate), but my wife refused to let me drop it just like that. She is making me think about Thanksgiving in a new way (well, in reality, actually start thinking about it at all).  The holiday to me was mostly just about the long weekend and the food.  So a new tradition will need to be born.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful,.. I'm thankful for many things, but I never really looked at this weekend to validate that.  I truly looked at this weekend as a long weekend with a great buffet.  I dont need to re-invent Thanksgiving. I need to INVENT it. I have a clean slate, now that the food is gone, I get to create a new reason for this weekend. My blog for has runneth over for now, so I wont suffer you my ramblings while I trying to figure it out.  Suffice it to say, I first needed to discover where I was at, before I could decide where I needed to go.  I plan to have a most excellent Thanksgiving, but I'm not going to lament the food that I once based this weekend around.  I'll figure out what to make of this weekend in time.


  1. I remember meeting a vegan my first year of veganism who told me he fasts today. It's his way of remembering the turkeys who died. And to basically not take part it in. It's one holiday I don't want to celebrate with omnivores...because it's too focused on a dead bird. You are right, it's not much of a holiday to many people without it. I'll enjoy some veganized Thanksgiving dishes, mostly for fun, but Thanksgiving as I knew it died for me as well. Thanks for this wonderful post.

  2. I actually did not make a huge deal about it this year. I was actually better about it EVEN though I was trying not to be grossed out that I was preapring a turkey. It made me sad but I stood firm and did not eat it. Today I am truly focused on what I am specifically thankful. I am thankful for you Brian for being a strong person in such a new lifestyle and for trucking through.

  3. I started celebrating Thanksgiving only 5 years ago. I have never had a Thanksgiving Turkey so I cannot relate to Americans who grew up eating the bird every year as a tradition. Everyone celebrates holidays differently and vegan or not, if things change or if a tradition changes (such as going somewhere instead of staying home) it can be frustrating. I used to love Christmas and enjoyed all the homemade cookies, traditions, snow, family time and meals and favorite Czech Christmas movies and TV shows. But when I moved across the ocean and left my family and traditions behind, Christmas died for me.
    Thanksgiving died for you and Christmas died for me.

  4. Another great post, Brian. For me, family meant more to me than the food, and since I'm away from my family at the moment, I can certainly attest that it doesn't feel the same for me either. Nor will Christmas, for that matter. I don't think that Thanksgiving has to be about turkey - it can be about making special food that you can't make all the time. Having said that, it shouldn't be about slaving in the kitchen like my mother (and her mother) have been doing for years. It should be about getting together, being thankful for each other, and eating some tasty food that you don't get to eat everyday.

    We used to always go to my grandparents house for Christmas, but one year on Christmas eve, my dad got really ill and had to be rushed to the hospital. My mom and I waited for hours, wondering if he would be ok and if this would end-up being "the worst Christmas ever". Well, he made it through the night and I'll always remember driving my parents home, realizing how fragile they are and how everything could have changed in an instant. My favorite memory was spending Christmas at home, just my parents, brother and I... not driving for hours to end-up in a packed and loud house full of family members that you only see once a year (if that). It was a quiet, peaceful and humbling Christmas... and it was my best yet :)

  5. this was from Brit_on_Twit wia twitter. It was such a good reply, I wanted to save it. Thanks Brittany!!!

    @CrabbyVegan this is my 7th year Turkey-Free.. so I have some very mixed feelings on thanksgiving, and really enjoyed your post. I was literally on the edge of my seat, needing to know what was going to happen next! The first couple years I suffered at the family get togethers, what I imagine may be similar to your wifes. There were years I did not eat anything but a roll or a handfull of black olives. I got lectured, questioned, in trouble (told the youngin's where there meat come from, let's say my grandparents and great aunts and uncles were not pleased). So I stopped going, I tried going to a dinner as small as 2 other people once, my dad and his girlfriend, after quote "ruining" there meal, I decided I was not meant for thanksgiving. I started showing up to great family, say my thanks, and go home eating whatever I pleased, but never a fake turkey, why would I want something that is pretending to be meat. It wasn't till last year I made a vegan thanksgiving meal for myself on the actual day of thanksgiving. I however ate it at home, alone. This year will be my first year I am trying to recreate the whole meal and transport it to 1 dinner tonight with family, and 1 dinner tomorrow night with friends. You know that saying " just grin and bare it " I think that's my motto for this weekend.. I am going to try my best to handle the holiday and partake, if you will, but I am extremely nervous, something has always gone wrong!!!

  6. Really good post... I really resent holidays in general because I feel like I'm being forced to feel a certain way on a certain day. On Thanksgiving, I never thought about the "thankfulness" part. As a kid, it was just a fun time to get the whole family together and gorge on particularly yummy food. As I got older and the family broke apart, all holidays just became kind of depressing and something to "get through".

    Since going vegan, though, I have had a few excellent Thanksgivings. When it has just been my husband and me staying in and cooking for ourselves, I have had a really good time. I've enjoyed the challenge of veganizing all my fave food and sharing it peacefully and joyfully with my guy. Those are the times I can really get into the spirit and feel cozy and warm and fuzzy. The couple of times we've gotten together with omni family like yesterday, were somewhat awkward and not as enjoyable.

    So, I guess I'm saying that vegan Thanksgivings sort of saved the holiday for me.

  7. Great post Brian.It was nice to read a different perspective about the holiday. Even when I was an onmi I never really liked Thanksgiving food so it was interesting to read your recount of eating and eating and eating the bird. I understand you a little bit better now. It sounds like becoming vegan has made you become a better person and has forced you to really think about things you hadn't thought of before. Nice touch with the French at the end. Vive la France!

  8. Thanks for all of the great comments. There are clearly a lot of holiday issues going around. I never really realized that it wasnt much of a holiday for me, it was literally a food fest, and when it was gone, I didnt see the holiday anymore. We had a good weekend as it turned out. Found a place in Cleveland that served Vegan hotdogs, played pinball, went bowling, watched Harry Potter, went on random adventures. And spent time with family. It was nice to to finally see the forest through the trees :) Cant wait until Christmas now ;)