Turkey-free Thanksgiving?

senior sceneBefore Christmas in 1862, Paul Lindstrom drove his horse team through snow and ice from Empire to Denver to buy supplies for the holidays. At a time when flour was forty cents a pound, he bought a special treat for his family to share – a head of cabbage for $5.

With today’s transportation technology flying fresh exotic vegetables, fruits, and luscious berries to every remote corner of our country, we revel in the variety of delicious, healthy foods available to us every day. A friend remembers growing up in Missouri, where his father relished grapefruit as a special treat shipped all the way from Florida, impossible to grow on their farm. Family in California enjoy backyard offerings of fresh citrus and a prolific avocado tree.

Do we take the variety for granted? How many of us bypass the cucumbers and lemons at the grocery, assuming new ones will arrive again next week if we need them for a recipe? How do they provide it all so affordably for us? Someone had to acquire the land, another obtained the seed, equipment, and labor to plant it. It had to be watered, weeded, and protected from pests. Another set of laborers harvested it, cleaned it, and sent it to a packager who wrapped it and loaded it into trucks to be driven to an airport, where more laborers transferred it on and off planes and onto trucks bound for warehouses.

Unloaded again for redistribution, then reloaded onto yet more trucks to haul it to a local market, it was transferred again for storage and set out for display. Whew
! Now add in all the fuel, packaging material and manufacturing, paperwork trackers at the farm, wholesaler, retailer, and all the transportation companies in between. Cabbage should probably cost us far more than $10 a head. Every orange and spinach leaf arrives here this way, yet we pay very little for them.

Anyone who has tried to garden in the mountains understands it would be impossible to grow up here enough quantity and variety of produce and staple nutrients (grains, beans, seeds, and nuts) to feed every man, woman, and child living up here with exclusively local food. Each of us relies on the hard work of many around the world to bring us not only the apples, but the pressed oil, ground grain flour, spices, and sweetener for a single pie.

We may not be able to become completely self-sufficient at this altitude, but we can choose what foods we consume from the abundance at our local grocer. As we prepare for the feasts of the holidays ahead, we can reassess old notions of traditional holiday foods. The true treats are the joyous, brightly colored fresh produce bursting with flavor and filled with nutrients.
Do we really want to eat the months-old frozen flesh of an overweight dead bird raised in stressful, filthy conditions and plumped with chemicals and salt water? Do we need to make the crust of our pumpkin pies with the fat of slaughtered animals and add old, canned, processed milk painfully extracted from an artificially inseminated cow whose baby was whisked away at birth? Do cakes really require eggs stolen from chickens or honey from destroyed homes of bees?

The answers for many of us when we engage our full sensibility beyond our dulled senses of sight and taste is that we don’t need to consume so violently as we were once taught. More folks than many of us realize have proactively chosen the more peaceful and healthy, vibrant foods of vegetarian (no animal flesh) or vegan (nothing that ever belonged to an animal) diets.
We look forward to gathering together as a community at the biggest annual potluck in town on Sunday, November 24, from noon to 3 p.m. at the Nederland Community Center. Between now and then, we can think about our impact on the planet and fellow animals. Check online for multitudes of websites that demonstrate preparation of plant-based meals, everything from appetizers to desserts, and learn a new recipe. (For example, www.delectable planet.com is produced here in Nederland by volunteers eager to share.) If you choose to bring a plant-based dish (no dairy or egg), please label it as such and bring it to the tremendously popular vegan tables at the big event.

Our personal efforts at zero waste mean bringing our own reusable dishes, cups, cutlery, and napkins, a new request from organizers this year. Our efforts save money, manufacturing resources, packaging, shipping, and landfill of some of the “compostable ware” that requires huge, hot, regional facilities to properly break it down enough to transform it back to any biologically useful form. Please also bring a carrier to transport dirty dishes and labeled serving ware home for washing, as the dishwashing volunteers are busy cleaning community kitchen items.

Everyone is invited to the Nederland Area Seniors luncheon at the Nederland Community Center at noon. A donation of $4 is requested from those over 60 years of age and $8.25 all others, but no seniors are turned away due to inability to pay. Please make reservations by 4 p.m. Friday for Monday lunch and 4 p.m. Monday for Wednesday lunch at 303-258-0799.

With apologies to our vegan and vegetarian friends, the U.S. government, which helps us make these meals available to all seniors, sets the menu requirements for our meals. We serve vegetarian (vegan if requested at time of reservation) meals once per month and on other days welcome you to join us for fellowship and the sometimes vegan side dishes and desserts!

Monday, November 18: Vegetarian Chili, Cornbread, Spinach Feta Salad, Fruit
Wednesday, November 20: Pepper Steak, Mashed Potatoes/Roll, Mixed Greens Salad, Pear

Serene Karplus

About the Author: Serene Karplus – is the Executive Director of the Nederland Area Seniors, Inc. (NAS) which assists senior citizens in enhancing their quality of life, enabling them to live a life of respect and honor.  This is accomplished through the facilitation of nutrition, transportation, education, recreation, socialization and outreach programs for all seniors living in the Greater Nederland Area. Serene is a contributor to The Mountain-Ear with her Senior Scene column.