Ever since I was little, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. My mom was usually the one to host the festivities, and every year she would make it special. While I didn’t really help much with preparing the meal, I was in charge of setting the table and making the place cards and would make sure to decorate each one with the appropriate Thanksgiving flair (i.e. turkeys, pilgrims, and various fall leaves).
What always amazed me about the Thanksgiving meal was how seamlessly my mom would pull it off, or at least how seamlessly she made it appear! No doubt she has had a lot of practice doing this over the years, and I’m sure her first few attempts were filled with errors of timing and, perhaps, trying too hard. But by the time I was old enough to understand, I came to see my mom as a culinary genius.
I firmly believe that my mom’s real expertise was in editing herself. She always focused on a few staple dishes every year and never made too much food. Unlike some Thanksgivings I’ve heard about, there were never three kinds of mashed potatoes, obscene amounts of bread or endless desserts. She kept it simple – salad for starter, turkey with stuffing, sweet potato casserole, two kinds of homemade cranberry sauce, cranberry bread and usually steamed green beans for the main meal. Dessert usually consisted of a couple of baked goods, like brownies made from scratch and maybe some pecan pie with Brigham’s vanilla ice cream. Lots of food, to be sure, but it never felt like too much.
Aside from the food, I really enjoy the family togetherness of it all. My siblings don’t live locally, so the holidays are usually the only times I get to catch up with them and their kids. Some of my fondest memories are those in which we would gather together after the meal to hang out in the den either watching sports on TV or playing a friendly game of Trivial Pursuit. My father passed away from dementia 2 years ago, and one of the last really good memories I have with him was the last Thanksgiving he spent in our home. All of us gathered in his bedroom to spend some time with him before the meal. Even though he struggled to communicate at that time, I am hopeful that it was a special Thanksgiving for him, too.
A lot of my patients who struggle with eating disorders have a difficult time with Thanksgiving, as it can feel like a very food-centered holiday. I can definitely understand where they are coming from, as it must be difficult to be surrounded by delicious food when sometimes food feels like the enemy. What I try to remind all my patients is that Thanksgiving is only one day. Try not to be too hard on yourself if you eat a bit more than you usually do. And if there is a particular dish that you absolutely love and don’t get to eat it often, give yourself permission to enjoy it. Life is too short to not enjoy the delicious food and heart-warming company of the holiday. I hope all of you are able to relax, spend some quality time with your family and friends and savor the day.