Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chag Thanksgiving Sameach!

Happy Thanksgiving from ... Israel! Okay, not the most Americana place to spend the celebration of our most traditional and long-standing American holiday (which, I'll admit, has dubious beginnings), but this is the second year in a row that I've been in Israel for the holiday. I do think, however, that being in another country celebrating with other ex-pats probably gives you more of a sense of holiday spirit than when you're in America with the holiday saturating your lives. 
FACTOIDs: The first known use of "Thanksgiving Day" was in 1674. Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day as we believe it was celebrated in 1621 as a harvest feast shared by the English colonists (Pilgrims) of Plymouth, RI, and the Wampanoag Indians. 
I was never a big Thanksgiving celebrator. I don't like big meals. They always said to me "you're going to eat too much, run away." The holidays where we like to think it's okay to gorge are the holidays that I avoid gorging. And now, being Jewish, I get the big holiday meal once a week on Shabbat! Even then, I'm usually too busy to gorge, so it just doesn't happen (and now that I can't eat challah, a lot has changed).

My mom usually made the traditional goods: stuffing, a big ole' turkey that we'd eat on for a week, green bean casserole, and a host of other goodies. Things we never did? Sweet potatoes with marshmallows or cranberry sauce. In fact, I didn't know those were a thing until well after I'd graduated college. Green bean casserole has always been -- and will always be -- the food that sweeps me back to the holidays, no matter the time of year I eat it. Being gluten-free means that I haven't made the casserole in eons, however, because I'd have to make my own french fried onions and find a parve, gluten-free cream of mushroom soup. But the smell, the taste, the consistency ... in my world, Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without the stuff. Thus, I can confidently say I haven't felt like I've had an actual Thanksgiving in years.  Stuffing is something I've always loathed. It just grossed me out. Lucky for me, I can't eat it now anyway!

Oh! And pumpkin pie! Color me a sucker for pumpkin pie. A little whipped cream? Okay, it used to be a lot of whipped cream, but it's been a while since I had a pumpkin pie (crust = not GF).

Are you catching a trend here? The traditional American eats are not friendly to those who can't eat gluten, from the stuffing to the casseroles to the desserts. This is good for me because many of the traditional eats I was never big on anyway. Maybe I was meant to move to Israel and not celebrate the American holiday?


In fact, I mentioned that it feels more American to celebrate with ex-pats in the Holy Land, and it's true. You get to get together with other American Jews, in Israel, to give thanks to a country that (in truth) did so much for the Jewish community over the years. (I have mixed feelings about exactly what America did for Jews, but that's for another post. By this I mean the encouragement of acculturation and assimilation, as well as the loss of memory.) It's just funny to be surrounded by falafel and schwarma and yet be downing classic Americana food.

So here's to Thanksgiving, American style, no matter where you are celebrating. May you eat plenty of turkey, veggies, and even a little bit of dessert. And may all of you who spent your childhood in public school recall the paper bags that sacrificed their lives so that you could "look" like an Indian with your gnarly leaf-colored paper-bag vest!

Chag sameach!