Last week I had the opportunity to attend a prescreening of a new PBS special called Heirloom Thanksgiving, a lovely event that touched on many food topics. It was a wonderful way to get in the Thanksgiving holiday spirit and think about all I am thankful for.

The evening began with two panel discussions introducing attendees to several local folks who are very involved in the Real Food movement.  The first panel, which focused on sustainability and responsible food production, ended by asking each panelist to share what they were doing to make their Thanksgiving tables more sustainable.  The second panel, which included Oldways President Sara Baer-Sinnott, turned to Thanksgiving holiday traditions. Armed with ideas from all of us here in the office, Sara spoke on the many favorite Thanksgiving side dishes that compliment and complete the feast. These two panels transitioned us perfectly to the viewing.  Heirloom Thanksgiving, hosted by Carole Murko, is a documentary that looks at the ways food truly connects us all.  

The hour-long film chronicled nine people from across the country, representing many different cultures, to see how each of them has preserved their own family traditions for this uniquely American melting-pot holiday. Each person prepared treasured family recipes for viewers to enjoy, ultimately creating a holiday spread complete with wine pairings. The evening covered many topics, but at the core of it all was food, as the great connector of us all. This special event got me thinking of all the wonderful Thanksgiving memories, traditions and recipes I have had the opportunity to enjoy over the years.

I believe in some ways the Thanksgivings at my parents’ home are a pilgrim-like experience. We don’t have much family in the area but our holidays have never been enjoyed by fewer than 20 people at our Thanksgiving table – often tipping the scale at 30!  Our table is filled with dishes from various nationalities and an eclectic group of friends that over the years have become our family. I have so many wonderful Thanksgiving memories and traditions, from my mother’s festive holiday mantel and famous green rice casserole to our annual Thanksgiving sleepover.

Missing the past three years has been my grandmother, who recently died. She was a woman who, at 93, could still be found at her local community college taking computer and art classes: a true Renaissance woman.  Her yearly Thanksgiving gift, beyond her presence, was her knishes— a dish not found at early colonial feasts but always central to our holiday. (For those who have never had a knish, it’s a filled dough, related to those found in so many food traditions – from Cornish pasties and Polish pierogies to Italian calzones.) I am thankful that before her passing I spent an afternoon learning about her recipe and special knish-making methods.  I am thankful that my uncle, a few years earlier, had the idea to videotape her making knishes so we could forever watch and enjoy her.  And I am thankful that this past weekend my family got together, as the tradition has been for the past three years, to make her beloved Thanksgiving knishes for all to relish at the holiday, and to keep alive her memory. Tell us, what are you thankful for?

-Rachel


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