Savoring An American Tradition

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - November 26, 2008
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Thanksgiving dinner shouldn’t be stressful

If you read the papers or watch the news, you’d think this week’s festivities and feasting are something of an unbearable trial, and that Thanksgiving is nothing more than an obstacle course of dietary dangers and relationship hazards to be avoided at all costs. Maybe it’s because I come from a country where the holiday doesn’t exist that I love Thanksgiving so much. For as long as I can remember, the idea that people all over America got together to eat and give thanks for their good fortune appealed to me immensely.

Years ago, an American friend from West Virginia, who lived in Glasgow, would re-create the holiday as best she could in her small, Scottish apartment, and I remember loving it even then.

I do realize, however that not everyone feels this way, and that somewhere between the Mayflower and the Butterball Hotline, we’ve forgotten what Thanksgiving is all about.


I picked up the newspaper this morning to find a suggestion to buy packaged mashed potatoes and frozen vegetables to help “get through” the day. Another newspaper had tips for avoiding most of the traditional foods on the table (“Do you know how many calories are in a pumpkin pie??”) and yet another had a list of stress-relieving techniques to help you through the holiday season.

But it struck me while reading these remedies that stress is not wondering how many pints of gravy to make, and it’s not worrying about the calories in sausage and macadamia nut stuffing; neither is it spending a sleepless night wondering if the turkey you left in warm water in the sink will kill your guests, or having your blood pressure hit 180/90 because you have to clean the house and iron a tablecloth.

If you’re worried about how many hours it takes to defrost a turkey, you’re not really stressed, you’re just not paying attention. If your stress level increases just thinking about cleaning the bathroom before the family arrives, then it might help to remember that the demands on our homeless shelters are up almost 20 percent already this year.

Stressing about the trek to the supermarket to load up on herbs and spices you only use once a year? Then remember that the Hawaii Foodbank has empty shelves this year, and only enough emergency food for 10 days. Donations are down, demand is up. Those supermarket shelves don’t seem quite so intimidating when you realize you can afford to go shopping while others can’t.

And if you’re one of the thousands of incredibly hardworking parents of a preschooler, stressed out because you have to buy 20 cute Thanksgiving gifts for your keiki’s classmates, another 20 Christmas gifts next month and you only just got through wrapping 20 Halloween candy bags, try this as an alternative. Send a small donation to The Hawaii Children’s Cancer Society in the name of your kid’s class. The children will get a thank-you letter explaining how their money is used to help children in Hawaii with life-threatening cancers, and you’ll have saved hours of time - and energy.

And as for avoiding foods at the Thanksgiving table and worrying about every calorie? Please. It’s a holiday that’s all about food. Enjoy the turkey, savor moments spent in the kitchen, get the kids involved with cleanup and remember two small words: Be thankful. There’s time enough tomorrow for the real stresses life will bring.

Happy eating!

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