thinking of late about Thanksgiving, and my misgivings therewith, i was reminded that i had been doing some similar thinking just last year around this time. which is to say that i was having misgivings – if not the same ones, as it turns out. so i think i’ll get right into it, starting with the following, which has been lurking around mostly written yet wholly unposted for nigh on a year:
Part One: “Some Get the Gravy, Some Get the Gristle..”
i’ll refrain, however, from getting into Thanksgiving by way of a historical, “post”-colonial analysis, because i have no doubt that it can be and has been better said, by better than i.
on a more personal note, i don’t know if i even like Thanksgiving anymore. which is strange because i’ve spent most of my years in Montréal endeavouring to recuperate the holiday back into a meaningful relationship with my and my friends’ lives. you know how it goes: “we, who are isolated by necessity, circumstance, or design from our families, and already skeptical of the traditional trappings of this particular tradition, still have an interest in forging new (or at least modified) traditions, returning to the ‘spirit’ of the holiday (which is the feast day, which is a celebration of each other, and of the food that sustains us), and of course taking advantage of having the day off work, and so shall assemble anew and cram our gullets in the exultant harmony of excess to each, and each to their excesses. raise your glass!”
which is all well and good to the extent that it is successful. however, this Thanksgiving, over the course of two dinners (one vegan, one beturkeyed) in two very different contexts (one friends, one family, admitting the slipperiness of those categories), i found that, strangely, the food became for me an impediment to the very connections that i had so flattered myself as to declare formed the basis of my interest in the holiday – those being my connections to a) other people, and b) the world.
b) the world, is a rather simple affair. to the extent that Thanksgiving has to do with marking the change of season, this remains a conceit for the average city-dweller. of course options exist to eat seasonally (and locally), but it is the momentary bounty in the face of coming months of scarcity that gives significance to the harvest, not merely the prevalence of decorative gourds (whose affective worth, however, i am not questioning). it is difficult to argue that the veneer of seasonalism does more than give us an extra excuse to eat pumpkin pie, at slightly reduced cost to ourselves. more to the point, the act of ritual gorging associated with Thanksgiving is as much a celebration of our heavily-mediated freedom from the constraints of the seasonal as it is any gesture of deep appreciation for the food before us. it is in many ways (easily taken as) an act of defiance of the world, rather than one which affirms our being not only in but of it.
similarly, where Spending Time With Those One Cares About is concerned, any sort of meaningful engagement on either an emotional or intellectual level with those Cared-About Ones tends to be eclipsed by the necessities of frantic food preparation, consumption, and recuperation. it often crosses my mind at a packed dinner table how strange it is that people are often so busy eating (usually after a considerable wait) that little time is taken either to savour the meal at any leisure, or savour the company of those around them. i am not, to make things clear, opposed to enjoying food in silence; i think there are a plethora of ways of enjoying a meal in company. but i do tend to be of the opinion that a festive dinner is at its best when the food and drink enliven and inspire, rather than stultify and consume, allowing space enough for diners to slip easily in between conversation and absorption in things gustatory. it is an idealistic scene, i know, but i’m sure i’ve tasted it, and lamentably too rarely of late. the situation is only exacerbated by everyone eating themselves into an uncomfortable stupor, too surfeited to muster anything more than pained sympathy for the others who share their lot.
it is a dismal scene from which to limp home or flop defeated into bed, uncomfortably full and yet curiously empty.
* * *
so that was that, roughly. i will grant that on the whole, Autumn of last year was not my best of seasons, emotionally, but it does raise a suspicion that has been creeping up on me all the more of late, which is the uncomfortable possibility that i may no longer be a glutton.
(well, we’ll see.)