On another forum today someone was talking about looking forward to the L-Tryptophan nap. I realized that in 43 years, I have never once sat down to a Thanksgiving dinner at which the goal was gorging myself.
Of course, the first 18 years that was because we didn't celebrate at all. Raised as a Jehovah's Witness, no holidays were celebrated. Even birthdays were marked by no more than being another year older.
My earliest Thanksgiving memory is in second grade. My parents had made sure I had the appropriate notes and whatnot for the teacher to excuse me from all holiday projects at the beginning of the year. I didn't make a decorated bag or cut-out pumpkins for Halloween or a flag for Veterans day. I got to work on a random non-Holiday project each time.
The Thanksgiving Day craft was creating Pilgrim or Indian outfits out of construction paper and other materials. I was given my usual make-work craft and had finished that. Being the independent thinker and doer I already was, I went to the teacher and told her that I knew my parents had excused me but that I wanted to participate. I remember the Pilgrim bonnet and apron I made and happily wore at our little feast - lunch out at one of the long benches.
(( Yes, I realize in retrospect that it seems like the teacher was helping me do something my parents said "no" to, but if I remember right the excuse notes they sent didn't outright say I couldn't do things, just that I could not be pressured and had to be offered alternative activities. It's the difference between a doctor's orders to stay off a foot and having an doctor's excuse to get out of P.E. if a foot hurts too much. The latter is left to the discretion of the person whether to do or not. ))
Why this comes to mind is that I can't even remember when I learned that people stuff themselves like turkeys for Thanksgiving. What I remember best was the stories of the Pilgrims. They arrived here in winter and it was horrible - nearly half of those who made it across had been lost by the time the harvest came around the following year. After so much trouble and struggle, they had a good harvest and they had a good relationship with the natives who had helped them pull through.
They held a feast to celebrate all the things to be thankful for - those who survived, a good harvest, a future that was looking up, good will between people.
Truly, while they did feast that day, there are three differences I think are pretty critical:
1) Harvesting is hard work. Heck, everything they did to survive that year was hard work beyond anything we go through in modern times. They "worked out" constantly as there were no machines, no refrigeration, no conveniences, and no guarantees. They worked long hours, mostly very physical manual labor.
2) The food, the harvest, that they were thankful for was going to have to last for months during which very little would grow or be available. They'd already gone through a very harsh winter. Without a doubt they'd have that in mind and not want a repeat.
3) The Pilgrims were Puritans. Puritans very strongly believe in simplicity and in the sinfulness of pleasing the flesh. Gluttony would have been considered a horrible way to show their thanks. The feast would have been more about the gathering than eating.
Makes me actually glad I've never celebrated in the "L-Tryptophan nap" style.
Of course, I'm no Puritan. I love food and see nothing wrong with pleasing the flesh IN MODERATION.
In fact, let me take that statement and say something more on it.
I LOVE FOOD
How often have I heard someone say that, how often have I said that, while eating something too fast to even register the flavors fully?
Consider the difference in eating ice cream.
One person takes a small spoonful, lets it rest on their tongue and melt just enough, biting any fruit or harder objects such as chocolate shavings, chewing enough to break it up and extract a maximum of flavor, smiling in that way that says "oh, this is amazingly good" as they swallow and take a moment to even savor the aftertaste, the recent memory and look forward to scooping a little more and repeating the experience.
Another person starts shoveling spoonful after spoonful into their mouth, barely chewing unless there's a choking hazard, swallowing as soon as possible so they can get more in. Enough flavor gets through via sheer volume that they know it is their favorite, but too soon the bowl or carton is empty.
Both will tell you they love food.
Both will tell you what their favorite foods are.
One, during the process, actually looks like they are loving and appreciating the food. The other looks like they are more in love with eating than with the food which becomes an afterthought.
Of all things, the food I actually learned this on was the Ultimate Cheeseburger from Jack in the Box. That thing is overkill, but (in my opinion, of course) delicious. I've eaten it ridiculously fast, on the order of 5 minutes. I had a vague appreciation of the burger, but while I felt stuffed I didn't feel particularly satisfied with it. I've also cut it in half and eaten it slowly, on the order of twenty minutes. That's right ... four times as long to eat half as much. I enjoyed, yes loved, every single bite thoroughly. I wasn't stuffed, but I was more than satisfied.
When we eat too fast, we miss out on an important part of the experience - the mind's appreciation of the meal. We get the aromas and basic flavors, our stomach gets filled, but our brain is sitting up there going "What?! That's it? No! I want more!"
I LOVE FOOD.
I love the entire experience. I love slowing it down and dragging it out, so my senses can be fully engaged. The aroma tickles my nose before any food passes my lips. My eyes light up at a beautiful presentation. My tastebuds dance with the first explosion of flavor across them. My ears perk at the crunches and snaps, even the occasional slurps that escape. My tongue delights in the smooth and the rough, the soft and the crisp, a world of textures to experience.
THAT is truly loving food and brings the experience from just loving the taste of something to loving the entire experience fully.
Take the time to make your next experience of food worth having, worth saying "I love food" and really meaning it at every level. Not because it is comforting or pleasurable in a life lacking those. Not because it smashes down some emotion we can't handle. Not because it is a habit or a necessity. Definitely not mindlessly.
Because food and our body's capacity to appreciate it is truly an incredible thing. Food fuels us, but we could be fueled with bland bread, water and supplements. Instead, we have the ability to eat a very broad array of food items, exploring a wide spectrum of flavors, colors, textures, temperatures, and more.
Treat the next bite like you haven't eaten all week and this bite is the only one you're going to get.