“Three Sisters” is the respectful name given by the Native Americans to the threesome of corn, beans and squash. These simple foods were in abundance at harvest and a staple from the earliest times. They were thought to be given as a gift by the gods. Each of these foods is thought to contain a spirit worthy of special thanks and ceremony. Hence, Thanksgiving was born. Yes, Thanksgiving is a Native American holiday that predates the colonists. Most cultures have traditional foods that are specially prepared to celebrate the bounty of Autumn’s harvest. How commercialized we’ve become. With a little help, your holiday dinner can feel more like a “sacred ceremony of thanks”.
Plan your meal around the Three Sisters, and you’ll feel nourished without feeling stuffed like a turkey. Autumn colors are reflected in the foods available at this time of year. Traditionally rice, millet, kidney and pinto beans are harvested now. The many varieties of squashes and apples challenge our culinary creativity. They have a naturally sweet taste which provide the beginner cook with the ingredients to turn out a delicious meal. Hearty greens that can still survive the cool nights are collards, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli. These greens are at their peak in flavor right now. They are packed with calcium, iron, beta-carotene, vitamin C and E and minerals. The best way to cook these greens is either to boil in an inch or two of water without a lid until they turn a bright green (5-8 min.) or sauté in olive oil and garlic. Steaming with a lid draws out the bitterness and will pale the greens easily. At least one portion of dark leafy greens such as these should be eaten every day. In my house, “greens a day, keep the doctor away”.
In our modern busy lives, meal preparation has become just another chore. Holiday dinners are usually filled with the same old stress, routine and menu. Make this holiday different by changing some of the routine and the menu! The Thanksgiving
Feast included all the bounty of the fall harvest. Turkey was just one of the many meat entrees served. An abundance of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans were also staples for a hearty meal. We invite you to try one or two new side dishes (cholesterol free). The “Stuffed Acorn Squash” (look for previous posts in Whole Grains) can be used as a side dish to turkey or it can stand alone as a vegetarian entree. Or “Baked Winter Squash” sweet and delicious, be sure to make extra – leftovers (if there is any) can be blended into cream of squash soup or into a sauce for vegetables. Mushroom Barley Soup is always a hit with family and company.
Here are some suggestions to ease the stress of the holidays and enjoy it as well!!
¨ Include an apple picking trip at a local orchid as part of the holiday celebration.
¨ Why not have an apple dunking contest or make caramel apples with the kids?
¨ Have everyone pitch in to make homemade applesauce or apple butter. Stew cored and peeled apples in a little apple juice with cinnamon until they resemble apple sauce. Should take close to one hour.
¨ Ask the kids to go to the library and research about the history of Thanksgiving and what foods were served. Perhaps they can be asked to give a small talk to the family at meal time.
¨ Ask them to choose a side dish to prepare for the holidays, giving them several choices or an opportunity to create or find their own recipe. It can be as simple as preparing the mulled cider. Be adventurous!
¨ I ask my children to reflect on the years events and what they are grateful for. Our Thanksgiving prayer then has a personal and special meaning for all of us.
¨ Plan a walk in nature with the whole family. It’s rejuvenating and relaxing and we all need to take time to relax during the holidays.
¨ Remember the “Thanks” and the “give” in Thanksgiving. Our children can be encouraged to do something for the community to give back as gratitude for what they have received. Living our lives with an “attitude of gratitude” is what blesses us and rewards us again and again.
¨ Remember that it’s important that we do what we want to do – not what others expect of us. If you do less cooking and more walking, hiking, apple picking this year, everyone will enjoy it more. Special memories are made from times shared like this. No one’s going to remember how many hours you slaved in the kitchen when it’s all eaten in 30 minutes, so enjoy it this year. Changing your routine just might change the meaning of the holidays for you.
My family chose to show their gratitude by helping to serve Thanksgiving meals to the homeless as the Native Americans shared the Three Sisters with the hungry settlers. You might visit a nursing home to wish those without families a happy holiday. When my boys were younger we visited nursing homes and a home for paraplegics during the holidays and they still talk about them as rewarding experiences. However you choose to spend your Thanksgiving, take a moment to realize that “we” are all a part of the family of man.
Enjoy and may you be
warmed by the love of
your family and friends.