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A Different Thanksgiving Dinner

Debra Redalia


Back during the summer I was going through a big shift, and on 23 August I wrote in my journal, “Wow! Something must have shifted because I no longer want to make or eat the Thanksgiving dinner I have loved all my life.” I loved this dinner so much that I would go to great lengths to be able to prepare and eat it, even in difficult circumstances. And now I didn’t want it.

My traditional dinner had evolved over my 65 Thanksgivings.

My first Thanksgivings were always spent at my grandmother’s house—my mother’s Armenian mother. Usually she would make Armenian food, since she grew up with that and spoke Armenian and my grandfather liked it. And so when I visited during the summer she would sit me on a high stool next to her at the kitchen counter while she was rolling grape leaves around logs of lamb and rice to make “sarma” and she would help my little fingers roll them too. We always had rice and other Armenia family dishes. Until I was an adult I didn’t know there was another way to cook green beans that was not with tomatoes and onions Armenian-style.

At Thanksgiving, my grandmother always made an Armenian confection called Reojig, which is a confection made by stringing walnut halves on a thread and then dipping it in a slurry made from cornstarch and grape juice here’s a recipe and instructions. It is dipped and dried repeatedly to form a log, then sliced crossways to make small discs of candy with a walnut in the middle.

When I started cooking myself, I made baklava every Thanksgiving and brought it to our Thanksgiving table. Baklava from scratch, rolling out every layer by hand, with real butter and real honey, which I never see anywhere. My grandfather loved this. The recipe is in Treasured Armenian Recipes.

In my mid-twenties, my mother left her body and then my grandmother left her body soon after, and that was the end of my Armenian family. My grandfather went to a rest home. And so it was time for me to create my own Thanksgiving.

For me that was the whole roast turkey and gravy, cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed yam casserole, cranberry sauce, and my family-recipe mashed potatoes. Pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert. I made this dinner over and over for decades. There were variations, but it always had these same basic elements.

And then on 23 August, I didn’t want to make it anymore, and I didn’t want to eat it.

Because it was no longer the way I eat. The only part I wanted to keep was my Ross family mashed potatoes because it’s my family recipe and I’ve been eating it at my father’s side of the family Christmas every year since I could eat. And then I started eating in on Thanksgiving too.

What I wanted to do this year was give deep thanks to Life for the food that nourishes my body and prepare local food in ways that celebrate its wholeness. I want to give thanks to the plants and animals that become my food and the ecosystem that supports us and the farmers and the rain and the sun and the spirit that makes everything alive.

I no longer want to duplicate the first Thanksgiving of the Pilgrims, I want to be in present time and give thanks as the Pilgrims did by gathering local food and preparing it with my love and skill.

I want to eat


I was all ready to do this for Thanksgiving coming up in a few weeks but then I got the wonderful opportunity to go someplace else! Larry and I will be spending Thanksgiving in a different ecosystem altogether! One of my favorite places in the world. If it rains between now and then, I may have bushels of porcini mushrooms on my doorstep.

But still, we’ll be exploring that ecosystem to create our dinner and give thanks there. The local farmer’s market is two days before Thanksgiving, so I’m sure we’ll find some good things to eat there.

I love this.

Yesterday I was remembering that I used to write songs about Nature and sing them. I haven’t done that for a while for various reasons. But yesterday I had an inspiration to write a grace song in the form of a round so it could be sung around a table. I really want to do that and have that experience. We’ll see what arises out of my imagination. And then I will need a meal and friends and a table we can sit around.