A smaller Thanksgiving
The holiday’s coming! What shall we do?
A really large turkey is too big for two!
A chicken instead — or maybe, a hen.
A poem, a blessing, some music, and then
a feast for a king — or maybe, a queen —
the smallest Thanksgiving that I’ve ever seen.
2020 is the year everything is different. Nine months into a global pandemic, we’re being asked to forgo large holiday gatherings. Many are having a Thanksgiving for two — or just immediate family. Yet we still have so much to be thankful for: delicious food, warm homes, health, friends, family, our beautiful mountains and lakes, faith, hope, love.
What a great heritage we have as a nation! Most countries have celebrations of independence and days that remember their fallen soldiers. Many have harvest festivals, like the Jewish holiday Sukkot or the Hindu festival of Onam. But few other nations set aside a national holiday whose main purpose is gratitude.
George Washington issued our first national Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789, stating “that the people may thank God for an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” While Presidents Adams and Madison also proclaimed days of national Thanksgiving, other American presidents did not.
It was President Lincoln who is credited with making Thanksgiving a national holiday. While the Civil War was raging, Lincoln invited “fellow citizens … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November … as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” President Franklin Roosevelt changed the date from the last Thursday in November to the 4th Thursday.
Lincoln also implored God to heal the wounds of the nation, recommended “humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience,” and prayed for “all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife.” As we battle a virus which has already killed more than a quarter-million Americans and 1.34 million people around the globe, we can learn much from the example of this humble president who served our nation a century-and-a-half ago.
We look forward to getting together with friends and family — next year. This year, it is time to temporarily change our traditions and avoid gatherings. For now, we will stay apart in order to protect those we love from the possibility of infection. We are thankful for today’s technology like Facetime, Skype and Zoom that allows us to come together virtually.
In your small gathering, keep in mind that wherever two are three gather in God’s name, He promises to be in their midst. Make it festive. Cook something extra-special — even if it’s not a turkey. If the people you gather with each year live nearby, you could make your special dish and deliver it to their homes.
What you cook is up to you. You could prepare small versions of your traditional dishes, like stuffing, potatoes, cranberries — or break with tradition and do something totally different. If a whole turkey is just too much, buy a turkey breast — or get a rotisserie chicken or Cornish game hen. Or break with the tradition of turkey and make something different like pork loin or chops. For dessert, make your favorite holiday pie.
Whatever you do, make your small, intimate meal spectacular. The house should look and smell like a holiday. Set the table with your holiday china. Have candles or flowers, wine or sparkling cider.
Leftovers? Put the meat into freezer containers with mashed potatoes and other side dishes. It makes a great frozen meal you can microwave for lunch or dinner when you don’t have time to cook.
Even in a pandemic, we thank God for our health, and for the earth that nourishes our bodies with food and fills our souls as we share the beauty that surrounds us here in these mountains. Let us give thanks for the farmers who grew our food, the hands that prepared it, the material abundance we take so much for granted.
Seasonal Holiday Salad
Fresh greens with oranges, roasted squash and roasted beets to accent the sweetness of autumn.
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon prepared mustard (like maple mustard or honey Dijon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 cups fresh greens (like spring mix or mesclun)
1/2 cup sweet onion slices or scallions
1 cup roasted butternut squash cubes
1 beet, roasted (about 1 cup cubes)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or crumbled feta cheese
Combine dressing ingredients in the bottom of the salad bowl, and whisk with a fork.
Toss in the greens.
Peel the orange, divide in quarters, and cut across the sections to release some of the juice. Remove any seeds and discard. Toss again.
Add remaining ingredients (roasted vegetables, onion and crumbled cheese), and toss again.
Serves 2 to 4, depending on serving size.
Perfect for the turkey without the fuss. You can also do this with holiday leftovers.
Sliced turkey breast (lunch meat) — thick slices.
Homemade stuffing (or mashed potatoes)
Cranberry sauce (homemade or from a can)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lay out the turkey slices on a board or large plate. Top with your homemade stuffing and cranberry sauce. Roll it up.
Arrange in 9-by-9-inch or other baking dish. Pour turkey gravy over them.
Bake 20 to 30 minutes.
Option: Fill with mashed potatoes instead of stuffing.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.