This year will be my first Thanksgiving as a food blogger. It's a little intimidating to write about a national holiday centering around food, especially since so many more well-known bloggers have already published their Thanksgiving posts, featuring recipes I would never think of. So, like a good English major, after staring at a blank screen for half an hour rejecting idea after idea that seemed brilliant until I tried to put it into words, I went to my favorite bibliographic source for inspiration.
The great sage and imminent foodie himself, Mr. Michael Pollan, has recently published an updated version of his book Food Rules, with illustrations by Maira Kalman, who also illustrated the 2005 version of William Strunk and E.B. White's The Elements of Style. To the now-well-known mantra "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Pollan has added suggestions sent in by readers who learned them from their parents and grandparents. As Pollan said on his interview with Good Morning America, these new rules contain "the wisdom of our culture." This is a hopeful message in and of itself, since from reading the news it sometimes seems as though we don't even have a unified culture, let alone a wise one.
The rule that I want to focus on this Thanksgiving is "No Labels on the Table." This rule states that even if you are just eating pizza from Domino's, or Chinese takeout, it will taste better if you first sit at an actual table, and second, take the food out of its packaging and put it in the plates and bowls that remind you that you're in your home where you can feel relaxed and enjoy your meal.
I will be celebrating this Thanksgiving at my great-aunt's house. As she has done for the past several years, I expect that she will buy the boxed Thanksgiving Dinner option from Stop & Shop, complete with pre-cooked turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and pie. In a way this feels like cheating, of course. A way to cut down on the amount of preparation time required for the meal, and a way to avoid thinking about the specific ingredients it contains and where they came from. (High fructose corn syrup in that gravy? I betcha there is!)
But Aunt Lena always presents the food in her own serving dishes, and banishes the Stop & Shop box to the kitchen, where a full two rooms separate it from the dining table. That's because the beauty of any Thanksgiving dinner is that no matter where you eat it or what level of preparation goes into it, through sheer alchemy, it manages to look and taste like a home-cooked meal when it's served with a bit of care and a personal touch; whether that means bone china, a new and festive tablecloth, or just hiding the box.