Although I am a staunch opponent of the tradition we as Americans call “Thanksgiving”, I find myself becoming increasingly reflective around this time of year. I don’t know if it’s due to the transformation of autumn leaves, the slight chill of early winter or the smell of baked things in the air but all I know is that I get unusually meditative during this particular season. I find myself imbued with a spirit of gratitude, a spirit that has become tragically extinct in our nations collective consciousness as a result of what we eat.
One night while at the supermarket shopping for dinner, I looked at all the items I placed on the conveyor belt and began to notice a pattern – All of my selections were processed, ready-made, microwavable and either out of a bag or in a can. The fact that I am a busy single man may play a role in this coincidence but, I began to wonder if our generations collective lack of gratitude may somehow be linked to our nations clandestine love affair with fast, ready-to-eat, processed meals. In an effort to resolve this roaring quandary, I decided to reflect on the history of our nations procurement of food.
Back in the 1800s, food was obtained through the tireless efforts of men and women who worked sun up to sun down planting and tilling the fields, watering the crops, gathering the harvest, feeding the livestock, collecting eggs and grains, butchering the meat and preparing the spices and seasonings necessary to ensure their efforts were not only aesthetically pleasing but also pleasing to the palate. They had no Walmarts or Mega-Supermarket chains to go to for all their shopping needs. They were their own shopping needs and so when they sat down to say grace and pray over their food, they sat down with a spirit of humble gratitude not only praying for their food but also praying for the strength necessary to ensure the next day’s harvest. They were indeed a people of faith and ingenuity that understood the positive correlation between work and appreciation.
Today, however, we are what we eat. We are quick and easy, ready-made, “In just one minute,” prepackaged and ready-to-serve. Our meals seem to be a reflection of our fast paced society and conversely, our society seems to foster the need for the ready to eat meals. We are indeed stuck in a circular conundrum where the sweat equity required to build an appreciation for our food has been replaced with the need for instant gratification and rapid results; creating a host of unrealistic expectations that result in the untimely death of our gratitude.
Of course as technology continues to take us to new dimensions and consequently silences a generation already on mute, processed foods will continue to be a way of life that impedes upon our ability to be truly grateful for what we have. Microwaves will continue to spit out piping hot Sunday dinners and eventually conventional ovens will become cob-webbed relics of the past. But until that time, I encourage all readers to take one day to prepare a meal from scratch. Build all your ingredients from the ground up. Chop, stir, puree, blend, whip, mash without the aid of a blender or modern convenience and then once complete, stand back and look upon your masterpiece and feel the gratitude wash over you and fill you with a renewed sense of calm and peace. Then you will truly know what it means to give thanks!