Frosh Food: Thanksgiving
My mom made two turkeys this Thanksgiving. The 13-pounder was for my family of four. The 30-pounder (no, that’s not a typo) was enjoyed by a family I didn’t know and didn’t meet. They had pledged money to a local radio station where my mom has a weekly show. As part of the station’s fundraiser, their pledge of $100 meant they received a Thanksgiving turkey, donated by a local farm, which my mom volunteered to cook.
I had just come back from school, and on our way home the whole family went out to Hollister Hill Farm to get the donated turkey. We drove up a wooded hill where the trees were caught in a web of blue tubing that carried away their sap for syrup. The farm we stopped at belongs to Bob and Lee Light, and Ralph Persons had processed the turkey we picked up. I have met Ralph before. He once personally dropped off some chickens he had slaughtered for my mom which she needed for a party, and I had taken a picture of him and Mom. A few days before Thanksgiving, they met again when my mom decided to watch the slaughter and processing of the turkeys. (Not our own turkey, though–ours came from a different local farm called Misty Knolls.)
It occurs to me that very few families can write the kind of paragraph I’ve just written. And yeah, I admit it, I’ve been reading Michael Pollan. But how many people, when they sit down to Thanksgiving dinner and express their gratitude for the meal, are able to thank their farmer along with the relative who cooked? How many people can see for themselves the farm? One of the things I’m thankful for, and what is so cool about going home, is that food, my family, and my little Vermont community are all so connected. And it’s not just on special occasions. Before dinner on Wednesday night, we snacked on Cabot cheddar and goat’s bleu cheese from a local farm (amazing!). When I ate out with a friend at a creperie in town, the menu informed me that the egg in my breakfast crepe was from Shadow Cross Farms; my friend’s dish contained Vermont Smoked? & Cured? ham.
No, I’m not a localvore (but I know people who are, and I deeply respect them), and nor do I think I could limit my menu so much by season (no tomatoes in winter? What would I do?!). But I appreciate that home—meaning my house and my town—has a distinctive taste. I also like that my Thanksgiving turkey was the product of the work of real people in my own community and not the abstraction of an industry. Along with my family and friends, food makes coming home from college special, and not just because I love Mom’s cooking. It’s awesome that we can get some local foods at Tufts, but it would be pretty damn difficult for a couple of local farmers to feed 9,000 college students from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. most days for most of the year. The Tufts community is great, but coming home after three months has made me appreciate how awesome and different the one in central Vermont is. Our food system really shows that. It’s such a good story, isn’t it? A family supporting local radio gets an organic turkey, raised and slaughtered on a local farm and prepared by a local chef. Call it quaint, call it hippie-dippy, whatever. Among the other myriad implications of what and how we choose to eat, I think it’s about making connections beyond the one between kitchen and table.