Thursday, November 27, 2008 by Daniel

Thanksgiving, part II: The Big Meal

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday ever since I outgrew the materialism of Christmas. I love the opportunity to visit family in what is essentially a communal effort - everybody pitches in something. Plus: food. Without doubt, one of the best meals I'll eat each year. My family has some damn good cooks.

So, of course, all dietary considerations go out the window on this day. Considering the trail run and all the time in the kitchen and the fact that the only other thing I ate today was a couple eggs, I'm actually probably net negative, calorically speaking. But that's not due to any lack of effort on my part.

Every year, it's essentially the same routine. We gather at my aunt's house in North Berkeley, and gorge ourselves on appetizers - spanakopita, veggies and dip, stuffed mushrooms, hot artichoke and cheese dip, etc.

My dad carves the turkey. If I have any major regrets about being a vegetarian, one would definitely be the fact that this is a grand American masculine tradition, and I have no idea what he's doing. It's probably pretty gross, though.

We gather out on the deck to watch the sunset over the bay, which this year was quite beautiful.

Then comes the meal.

When I tell people that I love Thanksgiving, I often get quizzical looks and a, "But you're a vegetarian. What do you EAT?" Which always make me laugh. Here on my plate is (clockwise fro the top): Yams with brown sugar, homemade rolls (Rebecca made these!), green beans with butter, garlic and parsley, shallot and garlic tart, mushroom and leek galette, vegetable & cheese casserole, mashed potatoes with cashew gravy, brussels sprouts with apples and blue cheese, roasted winter vegetables, vegetarian stuffing, and three kinds of cranberry sauce in the center. I was able to put away ALMOST all of this. There were one or two other vegetarian things I didn't put on my plate, and for the meat eaters there was turkey and ham, as well as meat gravy and stuffing.

After dinner, there is the traditional period of repentance, when everyone exclaims disbelief at how much they ate, and how full they are, and then - not having learned one iota of a lesson - we do it all over again for dessert. This year we had: cheesecake, "mince" pie, cranberry upside-down cake, apple galette, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and bread pudding. My mom, who owned a bakery for a few years when I was a kid, is primarily in charge of desserts. I contributed the cheesecake.

This picture of my brother-in-law Paul pretty much sums it up.

It isn't just the food that I love about this day. I love spending the day hanging out with Rebecca and cooking together - something we don't often do together, since she hates cooking. I love that KFOG (our favorite radio station) always plays Arlo Guthrie's 18-minute "Alice's Restaurant" at noon - a song I will now forever associate with this holiday. It is often the first time in months that I get to see some family members, and I like the opportunity to catch up with them. And I love the premise of the day. Setting aside some time to consider the things and the people you love, and feel grateful.

As always, I have much to be grateful for, but in this space it seems most appropriate that I express a few words of thanks for CrossFit, which I discovered this year and which I think it's fair to say has changed my life. I have never been as healthy or as strong as I am now, and it is my fervent hope that all that I learn and all that I work for will allow me to enjoy that many more Thanksgivings to come.

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