Welcome to Fall
‘Tis the season to wade waist-deep through a plethora of holiday social gatherings. This is the time to celebrate the harvest, express gratitude for a plentiful year and put on a few unwanted extra pounds.
For many, this time of year evokes memories of gathering with loved ones, spending the morning watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or football, while the smells of pumpkin spice and roasted turkey waft through the air. This is a time when closely guarded recipes are passed from one generation to the next. Our families gather around the table indulging, or more often overindulging, in a banquet of holiday fare.
For those of us who are “plant-forward” eaters, this can be a difficult time. We are often faced with a barrage of questions and well-intended comments: “Why do you eat like that?”; “Are you getting enough protein?”; “It’s only one day, can’t you just eat normal on Thanksgiving?”
Oh, they mean well for sure, but this added pressure is sure to dampen the spirits of even the most devout vegan. So, how can we preserve our leaf-loving lifestyle, enjoy the season with all its indulgent traditions, and keep our sanity? I’d be lying if I said it was easy. Let’s explore the true meaning of the holiday and what connects us most to the food frenzy commonly associated with it. By doing so, we can begin to better understand the psychological connection and how to embrace tradition, while maintaining our plant-forward lifestyle.
If you recall learning about the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered to share the bounty of their harvest and to strengthen communal bonds. The focus was on setting aside differences and focusing on building a foundation of trust and respect, while they shared foods relative to their cultures.
Over the decades, the purity of this nostalgic gathering gradually began to transform into this feast of indulgent proportions we’ve come to know as Thanksgiving. Roasted yams have turned into sugar-laden side dishes that resemble a dessert rather than a wholesome source of fiber and beneficial nutrients. Our modest green beans and carrots succumb to the deluge of gravies and glazes. Our centerpiece, the grand holiday bird, is now basted in fats and oil, or yet — deep fried. The average American Thanksgiving meal now packs a whopping 3,000 calories and 150 grams of fat, according to a USA Today article from November 2019. It’s no wonder the Thanksgiving Day nap also has garnered recognition as a ‘time-honored tradition’ for so many.
As we prepare for our upcoming gatherings, let us challenge ourselves to simplify the season and develop a healthier emotional connection to our food. Consider replacing the fat and sugar-laden accoutrements with wholesome, nutrient-dense local fare. If you have a garden, celebrate its bounty. If not, celebrate the bounty of the farms in your community. Remember, fresh produce, in season, local and grown the right way, is always the best choice. This supports our local food system and keeps needed resources in our communities.
Enjoy your local produce and as you take a bite of that nutrient-dense goodness, free of sauces and syrups that just mask the flavor, remember what food was meant to taste like. Recall that it is fuel for our bodies and meant to repair the damage done by the stressors in our environment. This fuel nourishes our cells and excites our synapses. Who knows, this may just be the year you don’t need to nap, and instead will feel a renewed sense of energy to take a holiday walk with your loved ones. In the spirit of the season, enjoy the beauty of the Earth, take in the cool kiss of fall air and relax for a moment. Try to be intentional with your time and focus on the joy of those around you. Go out and meet your neighbors, volunteer in your communities and share what you have with others. And for the many that will still ask each holiday season: “I eat this way because it makes me feel better!”; “I AM getting enough protein!”; and “I don’t have to eat this way on Thanksgiving … I choose to.”
You can find The Villages Grown’s locally grown produce and plant-forward artisanal items at the following retailers:
The Villages Grown retail store, Brownwood Paddock Square, 2666 W Torch Lake Drive; Publix supermarkets throughout The Villages; and Earthfare in Lady Lake.