What does it mean to have a Wilder Thanksgiving?
I guess I don’t really have the answer to that question… yet.
Have you ever done something over and over again so often that you forget why you were doing it in the first place? Perhaps it loses some of its meaning, or maybe you never really understood the meaning in the first place?
Celebrating Thanksgiving has been a lot like that, for me (and I suspect I’m not alone). We constantly hear people reminding us “what Thanksgiving is all about.” Never mind the plethora of information out there on the origins of Thanksgiving, or the unfortunate truth about Thanksgiving (which of course, creates complications for those who still practice it).
I struggle every year with how to approach this holiday – how to be balanced, grateful, and compassionate. This year… I decided we needed to approach this day Ayurvedically, and locally.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda means the “science of life,” according to Dr. Kulreet Chuadhary, who wrote the much-publicized book, The Prime, and focuses first and foremost on gut health:
Ancient physicians knew what modern doctors are only beginning to fully understand: that one of the most important factors in overall health – including weight issues, chronic disease, and brain dysfunction – is the health of your digestive system. An old Ayurvedic saying goes something like this: “It’s not just about what you eat. It’s about what you digest.” (74)
When we think of Thanksgiving, too often we think of large meals, over-eating, and often even cut corners with store-bought and processed foods (how many cans of cranberry “stuff” have we all eaten in our lives?). In later posts, I’ll explore exactly what I’ve found beneficial about Ayurveda (and The Prime), but suffice to say I wanted to find a way to strike a balance in our meal.
So the research began.
Ayurveda teaches balance in how the elements (air/wind, earth, fire, water) are incorporated into what we eat and how what we eat and do interacts with our bodies with their own unique composition (called your “dosha,” of which there are three – vata, kapha, and pitta). This is actually common sense to us. Ever been told to eat a hot, broth-y soup, or something spicy, when your head was full of congestion? Totally Ayurveda.
One of the ways to find balance in our food is to incorporate six main tastes, according to Ayurveda:
As you can imagine, most of the “tastes” associated with a typical Thanksgiving Day meal are salty and sweet. So I pored over website after website after website after website after website, after website in search of recipes until I felt like I knew exactly what kind of meal to make.
And then… it was off to the farmer’s market! Did you know grains grown in the Northeast are available at the NYC farmer’s market?? I didn’t!
One of the most important things to me, wherever I am, is to eat as locally and sustainably as possible. I wanted our entire meal to incorporate as much local ingredients as possible. Like Dr. Chaudhary wrote, it’s not just about what we eat, but what we digest, and knowing where my food comes from goes a long way to helping me know what I’m digesting – and it gives me peace of mind and heart, two things I could definitely use a lot of!
I’m going to have to continue this post tomorrow, especially when I have the results of our meal… but I first wanted to share our menu!
- Spiced mulled cider (made from local apple cider)- to stoke the “digestive fire”
- Roasted local pheasant using this lemon / thyme turkey recipe (without the glaze, though it sounds delicious) – Ayurveda doesn’t necessarily deny meat, though they’re generally considered heavy on our digestive tracts… but the more something is spiced, the easier it is to digest!
- Brussel sprouts with pickled red onion (both local ingredients!)
- Wild rice stuffing (with homemade bread cubes and local produce)
- Cranberry chutney (with cranberries from neighboring NJ)
- Local sweet potatoes – just as they are!
- For dessert, a simple stewed local apples with ghee (without the mint)
And remember the grains I mentioned above? We already have bread to look forward to, tomorrow!
I look forward to your questions and comments – if you’ve had experience crafting a local feast, or an Ayurvedic -themed one, I want to know! I can’t wait to share more tomorrow when I talk about not only how our meal went, but exactly why I wanted to make this meal in the first place!
Stay tuned for more Wilder Thanksgiving, tomorrow!