Contribution by Maria Griffin

I know that many Native American communities recognize the Thanksgiving Holiday as a day of mourning, as a symbol of eradication of the Indigenous people who lived on this continent prior to “discovery.” However, this is not a political piece, so don’t skip on to the next section. I realize that it is important to acknowledge the strife that we as a people have suffered. As an eternal optimist, I want to share how I celebrate Thanksgiving with you.

In my family, we focus on two important things: counting and sharing our blessings with one another and trying new foods or recipes. The blessings can be current or ones that we have just realized that are blessings from a painful occurrence that we experienced. My mother, my husband, my brother, sometimes my sister-in-law and I share over the 4-day holiday the blessings that we recognize. I think it helps us remain grounded and grateful for the life we are living now and that it opens our eyes to the work that we still need to do to heal our ancestors. For me, my blessings include working with people that I admire and enjoy their company, answering grantee questions and providing potential solutions to conundrums, a loving and supporting husband, the love of my mother and brother, and at last having affectionate kitties.

The new food or recipes can be a great adventure, depending on the year. This year when we first planned our Thanksgiving feast for three people, we decided on just pork tenderloin, green bean casserole, baked squash, mashed potatoes, gravy, and crescent rolls. The new recipe was making the usual green bean casserole into curried green bean casserole. We found a recipe and I was ready for my job: cooking the feast…then the Perfect Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit arrived. (imagine Jaws music here or any suspense music).

The very simple dinner plan with only 1 new recipe suddenly turned into a total of four new recipes. The mashed potatoes turned into Mashed Potatoes with Crispity Crunchities (don’t ask), Cornbread Stuffing (too sweet), Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin (for the cheese lover), and Curried Green Bean Casserole (original new recipe). Now this isn’t really the first time I’ve had to put together two or three or even four new recipes, but I will admit, they were not as complicated as two of the recipes.

Dinner ran 3 hours late, so instead of eating at about 4:00 p.m., we ate at 7:00 p.m. The Cornbread Stuffing was new to me, my mom, and my husband; we had not had it before. We made the mistake of buying our cornbread from the store, which is a sweet cornbread instead of savory. We bought the best sausage and sautéed the veggies just right with the herbs. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the sweetness of the store-bought cornbread. Next time, I will make a buttermilk cornbread. I had to promise my mom and husband to make regular stuffing for this upcoming weekend.

The Crispity Crunchities eventually became crushed potato chips on the mashed and was actually quite good and crunchy, too. The other two items turned out pretty good, it’s kind of hard to ruin broccoli and cauliflower as long as lots of cheese and Ritz crackers are involved. The curried green bean casserole was delicious, but too much coconut oil. I’ll use less next time. Instead of a pork tenderloin, we had smoked turkey breast, because the other items took up all the space in my oven. I was able to squeeze the turkey breast in between two casserole dishes once I wrapped it in a cooking bag and encased it in foil. We still had gravy (stove top) and the baked squash (microwave).

The lesson I learned this year: get a bigger oven…actually that isn’t a possible solution right now, so the actual lesson learned is the next time the Perfect Thanksgiving issue for Bon Appetit arrives at my door, I’m hiding it from everyone in my house.