Every year, on the night before Thanksgiving, I bake pies with my sisters.
It’s a laborious undertaking turned into an occasion I look forward to for weeks, with flour coating our clothes, music playing, and wine flowing, as we peel, measure, and roll, until bubbling apple, savory pumpkin, and sweet pecan pies emerge, filling the house with an aroma that smells, to me, like home.
It’s just the first of the many oven-produced moments of bliss (and, inevitably, blunder) the holiday involves, and I find myself wishing I could take them all with me. I want to hold onto the taste of turkey, the smell of stuffing, and the warmth of it all for as long as possible, drawing on the feeling weeks later, on the crowded subway that ferries me to a cold office for another hectic work day.
But no. The day after Thanksgiving (if you’re not already shopping), the prevailing message is this: DETOX.
You’ll see it everywhere (including this publication)—yoga poses to release toxins, tonics to “clean you out,” multiple-hour workouts to burn. off. that. turkey. immediately. Hurry, they’ll tell you. Sweat it, twist it, flush it all out of your system before the fat and calories cling to you permanently and never let go. (Vogue even told readers they should detox in advance, to prepare for Thanksgiving.)
Whether media outlets are force-feeding the mentality or are satiating a hunger that already exists, everyone appears to be eating it up (or gulping it down, I should say, in the form of a charcoal-spiked juice).
Maybe I’m making a big deal out of the fact that everyone just feels a little bloated and wants to get moving again, but this year, it all started to get to me. Not because many “detox” claims often have shaky science behind them, but because I refuse to accept a concept that, by default, brands the most beautiful meal of my year as toxic.
Here’s some food for thought: Individuals who study the Blue Zones, areas of the world where people live longer than anywhere else on earth, often point to the fact that clues to their longevity are not only found in what the people there eat, but how they eat. In Icaria, for example, shared meals as a community are an essential component of daily life, as are parties that last all night, with copious amounts of wine. “There’s also very little stress, which of course is really important, and a sense of community, purpose, and belonging that’s harder to quantify,” Diane Kochilas, who spent her summers since childhood there, said in an interview in March.
In other words, when you picture the idyllic Greek island, where “people forget to die,” do you picture people waking up the day after a three-hour, wine-soaked meal in a state of guilt, hurrying to a spin class, coconut water in hand, examining their thighs? Or do you see them waking up satisfied, well-rested, smiling, and ready to enjoy another day filled with foods that make them feel good?
Sure, they’ve got an advantage (that whole idyllic, slow-moving island life thing), but even if in the long run, pumpkin pie and stuffing are doing physical damage to my body that a shot of aloe water could have helped reverse, I’d rather make sandwiches out of leftovers the next day and gush over how the flavors have soaked in with my dad.
Plus, while the science on the benefits of detoxing is pretty light, there are many, many studies that suggest cultivating gratitude comes with numerous physical and mental health benefits.
So this year, I’m going to try to focus on how supremely thankful I am to have abundant good food, family, and friends surrounding me, on Thanksgiving and for as long as possible. —Lisa Elaine Held
Still need some veggie-centric recipes for the big day? Check out these three delicious side dishes from healthy Manhattan restaurant Cafe Clover.
(Photos: Flickr/vxla, Pie baking at the Held household)