On Saturday we had our Annual alterNative Thanksgiving Feast. I always take some time to inform our guests about the true history of relations between the colonizers and the Indigenous people of North America. Then we sit down together for a marvelous evening of delicious food and very fine company.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the food and it is one of the few holidays that I have some happy childhood family memories of. My Dad and I had a very difficult relationship. We all grew up and lived under the crushing weight of inherited trauma and unresolved grief that he brought into our family from his Muscogee (Creek) heritage. Relatives outside of our family and friends saw the charismatic and charming side of my Dad, where we rarely saw that person. But Thanksgiving was a good day, with lots of food shopping and preparation leading up to it. When I make Thanksgiving dinner, I connect with those good feelings of anticipation and sitting down to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
One dish that I always make is Frank’s Pea and Cheese Salad. Legend has it that when we were visiting relatives Back East, we were invited to stay for supper, but the cupboards were nearly bare. My Dad went into the kitchen and made this salad from a couple of cans of Petit Pois, mayonnaise, cheese and an onion. As the cousin who related this story said ‘Your Dad was a great cook and could make something out of nothing’. The alchemy practiced by a cook can be magical.
This year as I cubed cheese and minced a shallot, I wept, and not because of Propanethiol S-oxide. I wept because I never knew that charming and charismatic man. I wept because I grew up afraid of him and spent too much of my adult life hating him. I wept for the fury and rage that he had carried into our family and the brokenness passed on to him from his ancestors and the injustice from a white society that shamed him for his Native heritage. I wept that I only came to understand and feel compassion for him many years after his death.
As I worked Frank’s magic of transforming base ingredients into a wonderful salad, the alchemy of pain and grief being transformed into peace and love happened too.
I served the salad in a dish with a rabbit running around the outside. Cufv the Rabbit is the trickster in Mvskoke lore. The shape-shifter. The shifter of shapes and the shaper of shifts. When we can reach for and embrace our deepest and darkest places, this is when true healing happens. And the light shines where it never has before.
I hope that all who celebrate Thanksgiving had a wonderful, meaningful and delicious time.
Peace and love to you all.