A Wilder Thanksgiving: Part 2

The Five Contemplations*:

This food is the gift of the whole universe,
The Earth, the sky, and much hard work.
May we eat in such a way as to be worthy
to receive it.
May we transform our unskillful states of mind
and learn to eat in moderation.
May we take only food that nourishes us
and prevents illness.
We accept this food in order to realize
the path of understanding and love.

*as translated by Thich Nhat Hanh (Be Free Where You Are, 2002)

As I remarked in my last post, celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday is troublesome for me. I certainly grew up surrounded with family, eating the traditional meals with traditional recipes, stuffing myself with pumpkin pie. But knowing how this day is felt by others, and understanding what I know about the effects of food on my body, I’ve been wanting to establish a more “authentic” tradition, for myself and my family. What does one do, to reset a holiday tradition and begin something more mindful for mind, body, and spirit?

One makes resolutions!!!

When my husband and I set out to make a more balanced meal sourced locally from the Farmer’s Market, we did so with the idea in mind that what we’re doing on this day is an indicator for ourselves of what we want to do more often for ourselves.

Today, then, becomes a day not just about “being thankful,” but about pressing the internal “reset button” on our thoughts and lives and putting practices in place that we would like to see ourselves practicing for the year ahead.

Start your New Year’s Resolutions Early.

At our meal this afternoon, as I’ve done every Thanksgiving meal since we moved to NYC, I read “The Five Contemplations” as translated in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Be Free Where You Are. I have done this as a reminder for myself to approach each meal, not just today, but everyday, with a mindful eye and heart, and purpose toward bettering myself with nourishing food, and bettering the world by shopping more sustainably.

I visited website after website (again, see my last post) for information on approaching this meal from an Ayurvedic perspective because I wish to incorporate this system of health into my everyday life – I’ve noticed so many benefits, already!

And, lastly, we made sure our meal was as close to 100% locally sourced as possible – down to the New Jersey cranberries, and the flour for bread made from New England wheat!

Honestly… it didn’t turn out half bad!

I’ll admit that I wasn’t listening to the advice from the Ayurveda websites when they warned against overeating – though the pre-feast cider with ginger and lime did help tremendously!

Side note, I realized after preparing the meal that I ended up using all the apples I’d bought at the market, so I couldn’t stew any later for a dessert!

After we ate, we walked the dogs and went for a walk of our own – something of a tradition, too, I suppose – traveling by subway to Columbus Circle, watching the post-Thanksgiving Day Parade cleanup and venturing over to 5th Ave to gawk at the incredible holiday window displays of the high-end shops. My favorite has always been Bergdorf Goodman’s windows, that always have somewhat of an intellectual bent. This year, their windows represent different cultural institutions of NYC. Here’s the window displaying the New York Historical Society:

Bergdorf Goodman: Holiday 2017 Window Reveal

Celebrating the 80th year anniversary of the Disney film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Saks Fifth Avenue created an incredible display that plays out, window by window, the story of the Disney film, complete with animatronics. To top it all off is the holiday light show on their building that plays every few minutes or so. It’s all quite the spectacle, and certainly worth a gander on a walk down 5th Avenue!

So, it seems our Thanksgiving Day ended a little louder than it started! But living in NYC, we just can’t help getting drawn in to all of the bright and bold shows our city seems to put on, on a daily basis. Our journey today took us down to the Winter Village in Bryant Park, where we like to go and poke our heads into random boutique and specialty pop-up stores and enjoy random and often exotic fare.

One such stop that we always make at the Winter Village is Max Brenner’s pop-up shop, where we get cups of hot chocolate… literally hot, melted chocolate. (I was so excited to drink my first cup of the season that I couldn’t take a steady picture!)

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Needless to say, my stomach made sure to let me know that, after a more digestible and mindful meal, this wasn’t exactly the best thing to be drinking. But if we’re going to talk about balance, then we can’t forget that moderation is always key, and we can’t cut out the little things we love entirely! All in all, it was a beautiful day, and I’m absolutely grateful for the hands that grew the food and gave it to us, and the ability to prepare the meal with the person I love, and the city in which I live and get to explore every day.

May everyone’s day be full of joy, love, and mindfulness, and may all of these things accompany you into the upcoming holiday season!

Do you have any traditions that you’re fond of, or that you keep to still? Do you make alternative plans on this day for the sake of your ancestry? I would love to hear about it!

A Wilder Thanksgiving: Part I

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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:

  • Sweet
  • Salty
  • Sour
  • Pungent
  • Bitter
  • Astringent

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!

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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!

And remember the grains I mentioned above? We already have bread to look forward to, tomorrow!

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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!