This year Paul and I decided that we'd host as many people as would visit for Thanksgiving. As luck would have it, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 people joined us for dinner on Thursday. Zoinks!
There are a couple interesting things about organizing a meal for this many people. Paul kept saying "We've had tons of people over at once, just not family, so this shouldn't be too hard." I agree-- I've cooked a meal of sorts for 30-40 people at my house, but that was more along the lines of a rotating appetizer bar, not a sit-down meal. To that end, you can see my earlier posts about the deliciousness that took place in my kitchen this week-- successfully, I might add. Also of interest is that 18 of twenty people who attended are not vegan or vegetarian.
Of course, everyone knows that the most delicious parts of thanksgiving are those that are served alongside of the turkey. For heaven's sake-- the reason everyone has so much left over turkey after the big feast is that turkey is really-- well, it's a bit bland and a bit dry, and the only way people usually enjoy it is slopped in gravy or cranberry sauce.
But when the first follow-up question for our invitation was "What will be served?", I knew that if I wanted to make this special meal for my family, I'd need to either cook a bird myself or serve one someone else had cooked, even if I wouldn't touch it. So I caved, and far more quickly than I wish I had.
When I went to visit the turkeys at the local organic farm where I picked ours up, I stopped by the huge flock of turkeys just out in front of the processing buildings. Standing there for a moment, I heard the buzz of the electric prod as they separated another 8 or so birds from the flock and herded them toward the "red room," as they proudly call it. There, the birds would be shocked to death, hung to drain out their blood, then boiled and de-feathered. In my arms I held dinner for 18, and on the other side of the fence were beautiful white and rouge birds clucking around in the funny way that only turkeys can. I didn't feel barbaric-- I knew that I was capitulating to the wishes of my family and others I'd come to love and I'd come to terms with it already-- but I did know that I'd never do this again.
After a year of being vegan, I told my husband that I would likely never eat meat again, and I definitely won't after this thanksgiving. To take it a step further, however, I don't think I'll ever prepare meat again after this week (in the past, I've done so on special occasions for loved ones). In the last year and a half, I've watched my friends move from "Really? NO meat? NO cheese?" to "Wow, this is really good," and "You really don't need the cheese on that," and "I don't really eat much meat anymore." I would like to see more of the same from my family, but this is the stuff pipe dreams are made of.
In any case, I regret my decision to serve a turkey for Thanksgiving, but more than that, I regret that I'm the only person in my family and in my circle of friends who seems moved by the cruelties and abuses of animal farming. Even in my visit to this local farm that is about as salt of the earth, natural, and unabusive as they come, that belongs to a family whose livelihood rests upon the well-being and slaughter of the flock-- as I looked through that fence at the turkeys who were waiting for slaughter over the next couple days, it all felt so wrong.