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Eco-Mom's Thanksgiving: The Good, the Bad, and the Stomach Flu

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Usually around Thanksgiving, I like to write posts about how to have a vegetarian Thanksgiving, how to avoid the allure of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and global news I'm thankful for, but this Thanksgiving I was too busy making vegetarian food, actively avoiding Black Friday, and being thankful to write any posts (you know how it goes sometimes). Also, my family was sick - sick with a nasty cold before Thanksgiving and with a stomach flu after. So, here we are, post-Thanksgiving, post-illnesses, and post-buying rush and all I can do is reflect back on everything. Here goes...


Travel

We are lucky to have both extended families right here in New Hampshire, so the crazy travel some people go through for a family meal is not an issue for us. Was it a conscious decision to move close to our parents, partially to avoid holiday travel? Yes, but I recognize not everyone has that option and most people don't happen to have both families living an hour away. So, travel wise, we scored an B+ on my eco scale. Not an A because we could have taken a bus instead of our Prius, I suppose, and because we did drive home on Thursday night in between meals instead of sleeping over with family because our dogs are old and our chickens are spoiled.


Two Days: Two Meals


My husband's family has a very traditional Thanksgiving spread, but they have embraced our vegetarianism kindly by adding lots of non-meat sides (including gravy-free stuffing). The great thing about Thanksgiving is that the traditional foods served are all locally grown and available. It's uncommon to see a table so heavily laden with in-season or recently in-season (and therefor easily stored) vegetables and fruits. That's one of the reasons I love Thanksgiving.


Thoughts on the turkey? Honestly, my earlier post about a vegetarian Thanksgiving aside, I personally think that holidays and big celebrations are the perfect time to indulge in meat. Instead of eating it every day, why not save it for a special occasion like our ancestors did (and like many of the longest-lived cultures still do)? Not only will your body thank you, but the planet will thank you too.


Our second meal, with my family, went totally off script. For the second year in a row, we decided to ditch all the traditional Thanksgiving food (except the pie) and make a vegetarian Mexican feast. Enchiladas, Mexican rice, fruit salad, guacamole, etc. Our family decided that since no one really loves cooking all the traditional food, since over half of us are vegetarian, and since we all love Mexican, we were ready to go off the deep end.


Thoughts on our Mexican meal? It was delicious and nutritious, but not so local (avocados and pineapple just don't like our NH winters). However, most of the ingredients in the recipes are at least non-perishables, so they don't need to be shipped quickly or refrigerated, and everything was vegetarian.


Both of these holiday feasts were served on real plates, with real silverware, and fabric napkins. Selective composting happened at one house and not the other, but I know both families are looking into better systems. We brought home our leftovers in tupperware containers that will be washed and returned. All-in-all, I think both of our families put on a pretty eco-friendly feast.


The Stomach Flu


We loved spending time with our families and really enjoyed a long visit from our good friends, but we did not enjoy the repercussions of all that visiting - the stomach flu. Our family was hit hard. Everyone spent at least one night throwing up and no one ate or moved at all for a couple days. I mention our sickness here because I want to draw a parallel between my thoughts on holidays (times of celebration) and illnesses (times of hardship). Both, in my opinion, are times to ease up on strict eco-practices.


For example, when my kids are sick in the winter, I raise our thermostat from our standard 63 degrees to 70 degrees. When everyone is feeling fine, we can throw on a sweater and move around a bit if we get chilly. When we're already miserable, I feel no need to make it harder. When we're sick, I also let the kids take longer showers and fuller baths. We had to wash everyone's sheets and towels in hot water instead of cold to sanitize them (yeah, it was a rough couple nights) and I ran everything through the dryer instead of using the clothesline because I felt too horrible to go outside. And, once he was feeling up to it, my husband went to the grocery store and returned with four bottles of juice, ginger ales, and out of season fruit because everyone needed to get rehydrated. Usually, we stick to unbottled drinks and in season or easily transported fruit (like bananas).


Did I spend the whole time I was sick feeling guilty about these changes? Not at all. I believe in doing our absolute best most of the time so that during holidays and times of hardship we can relax our standards.


I hope your Thanksgiving was full of yummy food, good company, and good health!

- Hannah




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