Defining Thanksgiving

The ways it has real meaning.

The iconic Thanksgiving turkey. Photo by Bruce Stambaugh

In the U.S., Thanksgiving Day is always the fourth Thursday in November.

Do we truly understand the breadth of what Thanksgiving means, though? Yes, we have our childhood memories of loving, familiar faces gathered around a dining room table ladened with savory food.

For me, and perhaps for you, I cherish those thoughts of the soothing fragrance of a steaming, hot turkey fresh out of the oven, tasty mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, flavorful stuffing, and of course, homemade pumpkin pie. That mental picture never gets old.

In my case, it was usually Grandma Frith’s three daughters and their families who somehow found room to squeeze into one space to enjoy the feast and one another’s company. I hang on to those precious recollections, knowing that it was a different era then.

Times have changed as they should. We’ve all grown up. Our grandmother and all our parents have passed on. Even the oldest of the 17 baby boomer grandchildren died too young.

We are scattered all across the country now, still related but disconnected. We each have created new traditions with our own families. In effect, we are replicating what we knew, what we loved, only altered to fit our situations.

As our adult children married and have children of their own, holidays like Thanksgiving naturally take on new approaches. In our mobile age, families learn to share their loved ones. It’s the prudent thing to do.

So, one year we gather together on Thanksgiving Day with as many immediate family members as possible. The following year, Nana and Poppy find alternative ways to celebrate.

The ways it has real meaning
Thanksgiving with friends during the “off-year.” Photo by Bruce Stambaugh

We gather with our grandchildren and their parents when it is convenient. It’s still Thanksgiving, just not on the designated day. We are thankful nonetheless.

To me, the date and day are insignificant. I am thrilled to assemble with our intimate troupe wherever and whenever we can. While my stomach rumbles full of turkey, my soul is full of joy. The latter is the preferred nourisher.

For that, I am most grateful. I am also aware that all peoples are not equally blessed, and that thought alone humbles me. It stirs me to be more vigilant for opportunities to care and share with those less fortunate.

I count my blessings, indeed, grateful to be where I am, at this place in time, even if the times are hard for some. It is our responsibility to help others however and wherever possible, simply for the common good of all.

For no matter our circumstances, we are one nation indivisible. We must work hard to keep it that way, especially at Thanksgiving.

The word “thanksgiving” is derived from two words and blended for a singular meaning. The word “thanksgiving” dates back to the 1530s and is formed by combining the noun “thanks” with the verb “giving.”

“Thanks” is taken from the Old English “panc,” meaning grateful thought. “Giving” comes from the Old English “giefan,” or to bestow or grant.

Consequently, Thanksgiving is more than a mere term, more than a holiday. Thanksgiving is a sentence requiring appreciation, gratitude, and generosity.

So, Thanksgiving means much more than delicious food, genuine fellowship, and back-to-back-to-back football games. Thanksgiving involves praise, reflection, and acts of kindness.

The Thanksgiving command suggests a trio of actions for each of us. First, we must remember those who have helped us achieve what we have. Second, embrace and celebrate with your friends and family. Third, we need to share our blessings of abundance with others.

In so doing, Thanksgiving weaves the past, the present, and the future into a purposeful, warming lifestyle tapestry. That alone is reason to be thankful.

A tapestry of colors. Photo by Bruce Stambaugh

© Bruce Stambaugh 2021

Breaking the diet for a BLT

By Bruce Stambaugh

Shortly after I had finished my usual breakfast of whole grain cereal, fruit and juice, I went to work in my home office.

However, I was soon distracted, not an unusual occurrence for me. But this interruption was too enticing to not track down.

The house had taken on a savory whiff I hadn’t smelled in a quite awhile. My wife was frying bacon.

Now in most households, that probably is a non-event. But in ours, the aroma of bacon sizzling on a griddle is an extraordinary occurrence.

A little more than two years ago, I was diagnosed with cerebral arterial sclerosis or hardening of the arteries in the brain. Besides taking a daily statin medication, my diet changed drastically overnight.

No more red meat for me. Fried foods were out, as were dairy products, processed and most starchy foods. In their place, I was allowed to eat fish, chicken and turkey, along with five to six servings of fruit and vegetables per day.

Simply put, if it had no legs or two legs, I could eat it.

The doctor was clear. If I didn’t change my eating habits along with exercising even more than I already was, I was a prime candidate for a stroke or heart attack.

My doctor was very compassionate in his approach to sharing the news. He revealed that he had the exact same problem and was following the same diet. His encouragement helped me make the necessary transition very smoothly.

This change had a huge impact on not only my life, but my wife’s as well. She is the chief cook in our household, and this new diet would change the way she shopped, cooked and ate as well.

Of course, eating healthier would also be an advantage for her. Not eating red meat was not an issue for her, and she loves fish as much as I do. She made the transition in meal preparation as easily as possible.

My wife found recipes and ingredients that fit my diet. Our son, the family organic guru, was a big help in providing advice and suggestions on spices and herbs to season and prepare food that fit my restricted diet.

With all of this background information, why was bacon frying in our kitchen? Well, I was cheating, with my doctor’s permission. After my first check up following the diagnosis, the good doctor was well pleased with the blood work results. The diet and increased exercise were working, assisted by the medication.

When he asked me how I was getting along with the diet, I told him that the only thing I craved were BLT’s, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. The doctor just chuckled and said, “Well, you can eat them now and then. Just don’t do it often.”

Those words were music to my ears. Or maybe better stated, BLT’s for my salivary glands.
With the heirloom tomatoes my wife and son planted last spring at their peak of harvest, BLT’s were once again on our lunch or supper menu now and then. And I couldn’t have been happier.

The bacon was obtained from a local farmer that raises and butchers his own hogs. The tomatoes were picked fresh from the jungle of leafy vines that climbed the trellises we built last spring.

Enjoying a delicious BLT may be a regular routine for most people. For me, it’s guilt-free, gourmet dining at its finest.

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