As with all Earth Dinners, there are only three “rules” (if you even want to call them that):
1. Choose local, seasonal and organic ingredients for your meal.
All the traditional Thanksgiving foods – turkey, cranberries, green beans (preserved), squash, potatoes, pumpkins – are already seasonal, so that one’s easy!
Now look for local and/or organic options. Try an organic heirloom breed of turkey and see how it compares to the humongous, store-bought Butterball. The heirloom breeds tend to be smaller, but they are so much more flavorful. And if it’s certified organic (or if you know the local farmer and their farming practices), then you can feel good knowing the turkey was raised on a smaller farm with room to roam and socialize.
Have you shied away from a smaller heirloom turkey because you need 25 pounds to feed the fam? Get two! Smaller birds not only taste better, but they’re also easier on your back!
Local Harvest is a national database where you can find farms near you that supply turkeys and produce. If you’re thinking about ordering a turkey directly from a farmer, reserve it in advance if you can. This helps the farmer know how many they need to raise that year. Most natural foods stores and food co-ops will also carry a good selection of local, organic birds. (Or if you don’t live near a natural foods store or a local turkey farm, some farms on Local Harvest will ship to you.)
2. Know the story behind your food.
Where did it come from? Who grew it? Why is the food/recipe special to you?
The food on your table has a story, too, and the story of where it came from or why it’s special may be tied up with some of your own beautiful memories, such as a lost grandparent, or that time the turkey blew up and you had to go to Denny’s for Thanksgiving, or a farmer you’ve developed a friendship with.
Give the cook (or cooks, in the case of a potluck) a chance to speak at the beginning of the meal and tell these stories. Let everyone mull on them, laugh over them, and let them lead the conversation into #3…
3. Have meaningful discussion about food, farming, the earth, and our connection to it all.
Did you have challenges finding a local/seasonal/organic option for something on the table? Did you have trouble figuring out where a food came from? Don’t hide it – share it! Bringing food issues to light and collectively discussing solutions for them are the most important conversations to have about our food. What could you do differently next year, or throughout the upcoming year, to inspire a change or even fix it if you’re able – whether on a large scale or simply at your own dinner table.
But it doesn’t all have to be serious conversation. The biggest part of Earth Dinner is having fun! Talk about fun food memories, play food games, try to one-up your neighbor with the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten, color placemats and make a homemade centerpiece!
To help get you started, download these Thanksgiving Earth Dinner conversation starters! Read them aloud and go around the table, or toss them out willy-nilly and see where the conversation goes. Who knows? You might learn something new about an old friend.
Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at Rootstock!