How to Pig Out on Thanksgiving (But Without the Guilt)

That’s the title of a list of handy tips from Cosmo, sent to me earlier this week by reader Maggie. Cosmo offers the usual “If you really want to eat X, try Y instead! It’s exactly the same thing except for how it doesn’t taste as good or fill you up, but THINK OF HOW VIRTUOUS YOU’LL FEEL!” advice.

Since you’ve all read that article a thousand times before — alongside a million other helpful diet tips — I’d like to offer you an alternative. Let’s call it “How to Eat Like a Normal Human Being on Thanksgiving (But Without the Guilt).”

  1. Eat whatever you want. You’re a grown-up, and it’s your fucking stomach.
  2. Enjoy your food.
  3. Stop eating when you’re full.
  4. If you don’t manage to stop eating when you’re full, don’t worry about it. Nobody does on Thanksgiving.
  5. Do not feel guilty about any of the above. You’re a grown-up, and it’s your fucking stomach.

Follow those simple rules, and presto! You’ll have enjoyed a feast day without guilt! Cosmo‘s instructions run three pages, but I just told you how to do the same thing in about 50 words. And when I’m the one who can get a point across more efficiently than… well, any other writer alive, you know there’s something wrong with that other article.

Happy Thanksgiving, if you’re celebrating. If you’re not, please feel free to apply those rules to whatever you eat today anyway. Especially 1 and 5.

Posted in Fat

211 thoughts on “How to Pig Out on Thanksgiving (But Without the Guilt)

  1. I’ve already eaten 3 helpings of pasta salad AND mashed potatoes. I wouldn’t trade that for false virtue. Great article, there are so many more articles that need to be fixed in glamour and cosmo. Maybe that can be the next open thread. :D

  2. I am dealing with the flu, so I am watching other enjoy and looking forward to eating some leftovers very soon. This entry is a wonderful haven from all those “Don’t pack on pounds this holiday season!!!” articles that seem to be everywhere.

  3. I love this. I was thinking today about how there ARE moral dilemmas to be had around celebrating Thanksgiving, but geez, whether you should be “good” and skip the pie you really want or “bad” and have the delicious delicious bad bad pie? Is not fucking one of them.

    Also, I’m having fun trying to imagine Cosmo’s so-called logic — “indulge” in unpleasant things because you’re not entitled to the good stuff — being applied to other areas of life. Like an article, “How to have mindblowing sex with NO GUILT!” except then you read the article and it’s boils down to, “Do it only once a month, hetero only, missionary position, no foreplay, with your pajamas cinched down just enough to put the babymaking bits together, no talking, no caressing, staring at the ceiling, all the while thinking about how pleasure is sinful and makes you less worthy of love. But it’s SEX so it’s ALMOST LIKE PLEASURE!

    Or “Indulge in Fantastic Literature, Without Turning Into A Know-It-All Smarty-Pants That Nobody Likes, And in Just Fifteen Minutes A Day!” and the advice is to read Sparknotes and Readers Digest.

  4. I love how all of the diet tips start coming more frequently during the holidays. God forbid anyone enjoy food after getting all of the family and friends together and cooking for hours. IF YOU GET FAT, YOUR WORLD WILL END.

  5. “How to have mindblowing sex with NO GUILT!” except then you read the article and it’s boils down to, “Do it only once a month, hetero only, missionary position, no foreplay, with your pajamas cinched down just enough to put the babymaking bits together, no talking, no caressing, staring at the ceiling, all the while thinking about how pleasure is sinful and makes you less worthy of love. But it’s SEX so it’s ALMOST LIKE PLEASURE!

    I wish their articles were this transparent. Mostly, I get the “Hey, you’re not cute, so you should learn to love balding ad execs and other kinds of partners we DEEM undesirable.” vibe from them lately. But of course have the right kind of sex and feel empowered and naughty if you *gasp* decide to masturbate or read erotica!

  6. A Sarah, that comment just made me spit my tea all over the screen. I love it! I think I will be sending this link to everyone I know around Christmas time (since we don’t do the Thanksgiving thing here in Australia.)
    I’m imagining guilt-free clothes shopping Cosmo style ‘If you really must have some, just take your credit card out of your purse for a limited time. Find somewhere comfortable to sit, light a candle, and breathe the aroma in deeply. Then, go through the pile of must-have items you’ve selected from the racks and put 75% of them back. Getting this calculation right may require you to cut an item up with scissors. That’s okay, just make sure you put the remainder in the bin – no coming back later for leftovers! A salesperson may keep offering you more items, but stay strong. She doesn’t understand the virtue of what you are trying to achieve. If she really wanted to support you, she’d show you down the street to the discount store and make sure you stayed there.’

  7. Even places I usually regard as benign in terms of diet talk are ramping it up for the holidays. Which of course means those shaming “I lost half my size, why can’t you???” articles aren’t too far behind.

    Ever noticed on those mom type mags there is always a picture of a chocolate cake, glazed ham or basket of buttered rolls with articles entitled, “Walk off the weight by ____(insert the closest holiday).”

    Look, but don’t touch. Strive for but never attain. Yum!

  8. I was thinking today about how there ARE moral dilemmas to be had around celebrating Thanksgiving, but geez, whether you should be “good” and skip the pie you really want or “bad” and have the delicious delicious bad bad pie? Is not fucking one of them.

    YES. I almost wrote something to that effect in the post, in fact. But then I decided not to mess with the whole “I said something efficiently” thing.

  9. Ever noticed on those mom type mags there is always a picture of a chocolate cake, glazed ham or basket of buttered rolls with articles entitled, “Walk off the weight by ____(insert the closest holiday).”

    Yes, and I always interpret those as “this food is for your family, but not for you,” along the lines of mommy-martyr-guilt. Like, when you’re a little kid, it’s totally okay to go psycho bananas over the possibility of eating brownies or cookies, but being a good adult and a good woman means that you can cook all of those things and not be even vaguely excited by them, or want them at all.

    That is also a very common symptom of anorexia, for what it’s worth, the cooking and baking for everyone except you.

  10. Against my better judgment I did look at the Cosmo link, and I’m kind of shocked that they infer that most of America doesn’t already put onions, celery and mushrooms into their stuffing. In fact, my family has always had a Thanksgiving meal resembling their “diet” options, but surprise- still not thin. Unsurprisingly, Cosmo needs to sit down.

  11. I’m British, so I’m not doing Thanksgiving , but my new motto for Christmas shall be,
    “It’s my fucking stomach”.
    Ho Ho Ho! It’s my fucking stomach!
    Mmn, I’m liking that. A LOT.

  12. Quote: I love how all of the diet tips start coming more frequently during the holidays. God forbid anyone enjoy food after getting all of the family and friends together and cooking for hours. IF YOU GET FAT, YOUR WORLD WILL END.

    Absolutely this! My mother always waits until everyone is seated around the fully laden table for someone’s birthday or special event to start telling us all about her latest “miracle” diet and how it means that no-one should eat potatoes or rice or bread or prawns or anything else on the table – but YOU all go ahead and enjoy it! Twisted stuff. :(

    Also, I made myself a manga avatar – how do I upload it when I comment?

  13. I love this. Also love what Snarky’s Machine said: strive, but never attain. That is the message that comes across in these magazines… there is something wrong with you that you will never fix, unless you buy all these products and spend lots of money on the diet of the month.

    I don’t need a magazine to tell me what’s wrong with me. I have family for that. But thankfully I’m not with family this Thanksgiving.

  14. I can’t stand those sorts of articles. Eating dates is not *the same* as eating chocolate. No substitute at all. You hear that, lady mags? Not. The. Same.

    /mini-rant.

  15. “Unbuttons Pants”

    Ahh, how lovely it is to know that on a mainly female site, “unbuttons pants” means quite simply “I’ve eaten a lot”. How delightful we ladypeople are.

  16. Should we all sign up (it’s free!) and go put snarky comments on the Cosmo website?

    (I’m stuck sick at home today too, snarkysmachine. This might be a fun distraction…)

  17. I’m stuck at home alone as well. My children are with their dad and his… whatever… at her family thing. Which is fine by me. I enjoy being alone and have no interest in the big family thing anyway. But MAN I want some turkey and potatoes and stuffing soooooooo bad.

    That’s not entirely related but it is about Thanksgiving so it’s vaguely related. Will you let me get away with it today? :)

  18. Every year on Thanksgiving, my mom takes the family out to dinner. We also let the kids do some shopping, and my thirteen year old with autism always uses some of his allowance money to buy a selection of jelly beans which he is now happily munching after eating two helpings of mashed potatoes along with his meal.

    There are other days of the year I can try to rein in his appetite, but today’s not one of them. I’d like him to have happy memories of Thanksgiving, and all the social stuff is pretty challenging (for me too), so I try not to pick fights over what gives him pleasure.

  19. Since I discovered the concept of FA (thanks SP!), I don’t even think much about what we’re eating for the holidays. I get excited about holidays, but I don’t get obsessed about the food. Reason being, I’m no longer starving and the holidays don’t represent some kind of legal binge anymore. So at our Thanksgiving dinner, I had a little of everything and an extra helping of mashed potatoes, and then I was full and it was good.

  20. Oh, you bugger! I have a post in the works on this, hahaha. I’m just incredibly slow. And possibly lazy.

    But it can never be stated enough — you’re a grown-up, and it’s your fucking stomach.

    I will never stop being mad at how we’re infantilized and condescended to when it comes to our own damn bodies.

  21. I’m in Canada so my Thanksgiving was a good month ago but I’d still love a delicious holiday meal. Mmmm, mashed potatoes, stuffing*, brocoli cauliflower and cheese casserole, and pumpkin pie. Yum!

    *I didn’t even know sausage went it stuffing. What? Me and my sister make veg stuffing with sauteed celery, carrots, mushrooms, and chestnuts, bread cubes, poultry seasoning and vegetable broth. It’s very delish.

  22. I popped over and read the Cosmo article… Unbelievable on so many levels. For starters, I’m pretty sure the only way gaining 9-11lbs could make you look like you stuffed a pumpkin down your pants is if it counts to stuff a 9-11lb pumpkin down your pants and then step on the scale.

    Secondly, I’m pretty sure ONE big meal will not make you gain 9-11lbs. Unless you are also proposing stuffing that much of it down your pants.

    Thirdly, even if it did… why on earth would it matter, and why does Cosmo get to lecture me about it?

  23. kootiepatra…I think if you ate a Thanksgiving meal and IMMEDIATELY weighed yourself you might be 9 lbs heavier, but once it worked its way through (and, ahem, out) it would be pretty much physically impossible to have gained that much from one frigging day.

    Also, my fucking stomach is super duper full (hence the previously mentioned unbuttoning of pants). Why? Because I wanted to try more than one kind of pie, so goddammit, I did.

  24. What really makes me angry about the whole “dieting for the Holidays” crap is that even if we didn’t celebrate holidays that involved tons of food, we would still put on weight, because OUR BODIES PUT ON WEIGHT IN WINTER TO KEEP US WARM. It has nothing to do with overeating, and everything to do with an evolutionary imperative that existed long before fireplaces or central heating. It exists in almost every mammal in a seasonal environment. We could eat celery all fucking winter and we’d still have more weight on our bones because our bodies would like us not to freeze to death. 9.9

    Personally, I’m not having a very good day, and most of it has to do with not being able to cook because I suck at cooking (but not baking) and my family is 600 miles away so I am lonely. But hopefully tomorrow will be better. Maybe I will dig out my little hand mixer and make a pistachio pudding pie. XD

  25. One thing I noticed about this article is that – hold the phone – all of their ‘thin’ options were things I already LIKED to eat. This is one of the problems: they take food that some people may or may not like to eat, and instruct us not to eat it, and take other food that some people may or may not like to eat and make it seem as though we represent the ultimate in virtuous martyrdom by forcing it down our throats. It demonizes food that can otherwise be tasty and makes it seem like people only eat it when they have to to lose weight. I’m pretty sure that 100 years ago when someone went for the plate of steamed veggies, no one said “oh you’re so good…I could never have that much willpower!” That being said, I do love me some pecan pie…and I won’t have to worry about not being able to wear my skinny jeans, because I do wear them and I’m already fat.

  26. Had a nice dinner with family, did not gorge, did not deprive, ate a little of everything and it was all good. I also made an epic dish for the meal-savory butternut squash bread pudding. May be the most delicious thing I’ve ever cooked, and that’s really saying something. Seeing people enjoy that to the degree that they did was very rewarding.

    Now for that turkey sandwich. We brought home a truckload of leftovers. But somehow, no gravy. How did that happen?

  27. Ever noticed on those mom type mags there is always a picture of a chocolate cake, glazed ham or basket of buttered rolls with articles entitled, “Walk off the weight by ____(insert the closest holiday).”

    Look, but don’t touch. Strive for but never attain. Yum!

    This reminded me of that episode of the Simpsons when Bart is sitting with Agnes Skinner and she’s showing him pictures of cake.

    “Now this is a Lady Baltimore Cake.”
    “Do you have any real cake?”
    “NO. Only pictures. I don’t eat cake.”

    Anyway, this was a lovely thanksgiving. I went back for a second plate and only managed to eat half of it.

    In other news, my cats’ wet food rotation happened to land on “Turkey Feast” for Thanksgiving day. So that was nice.

  28. Also, my Florida mom decided not to make a Turkey and all the trimmings, just her special stuffing, and the rest was store bought, but it was still a lovely day and a delicious meal.

  29. Great post. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed a lovely, mostly guilt-free Thanksgiving. (I say “mostly” because I feel a bit disloyal admitting that my in-laws make better stuffing than my mom does. But Mom’s mashed potatoes are way better so it evens out.) Happy Thanksgiving, all.

  30. i ate a lot, but it was yum. i’m waiting a while to eat some cherry pie. i have to say not feeling paranoid and guilty over food makes thanksgiving a lot better. and if i would’ve starved myself, it would’ve ended in bingeing anyway, which distends my stomach and makes food sinful and displeasurable. soo..i didn’t diet, or starve, and i just…ate. i ate a lot of sweet potato casserole, thankyouveryfuckingmuch, with the marshmallows.

    it seems in those womens magazines with the chocolate cake recipes and the ‘milkshake diet’, that it’s just a double standard to keep women fat and miserable so that they can keep making the diet companies fat and happy. but i never considered the ‘look, but don’t touch. it’s for your kids, never you’ mentality.

  31. ugh. ok. ‘fat and miserable.’ totally said wrong. apologize, as there is nothing wrong with being fat. i meant miserable and discontent. forgive me? eek. sorry again.

  32. Quote: i never considered the ‘look, but don’t touch. it’s for your kids, never you’ mentality.

    I think this is part of the “ideal Stepford Wife” image (think Nicole Kidman in that movie.) She’s blonde, beautifully made up, slim, elegant and the perfect mother/housekeeper/hostess/cook with lots of delicious things on the table which she doesn’t herself indulge in.

    Kind of like Nigella Lawson (How to be a Domestic Goddess) but without getting fat, because, you know, that would be just AWFUL!

    Kind of the reverse of my life, in which I’m fat but not a good cook/housekeeper/hostess – and I spent the first two years of married life crying/stressing out about it. Now I figure that my key word is “outsourcing” – or as my mother says “you earn enough – you have a responsibility to give some other woman a job.” I’ve never been sure if this is feminism or not…

  33. ugh. ok. ‘fat and miserable.’ totally said wrong. apologize, as there is nothing wrong with being fat. i meant miserable and discontent. forgive me? eek. sorry again.

    Well diets do make people fat and miserable. Fat because their bodies are simply doing what their bodies do; miserable because they are fighting a hopeless war with their own bodies because someone else thinks it’s a goal worth pursuing.

  34. My beau and I fully embraced these tenets today—Thanksgiving on our own made it much easier. Only the food we loved: so a course of homemade guacamole, nachos, and caiprinhas. A second course a few hours later of bacon wrapped shrimp served atop polenta with gorgonzola. And just finished a dessert of chocolate mousse cheesecake. And still the butternut squash still sits lonely and cold in the fridge. My heart goes out to the poor suckas who choked down dried out turkey in a guilt marinade!

    As for eating only what we want, I had one piece of cheesecake, he had three, and we’re both feeling way content right now. Yay for being grown-ups in charge of our own fucking stomachs!

  35. snarkysmachine, good point. weight loss diets are paradoxically a good way to gain weight but you’ll just hate your body while you do it. and alicia, that dinner sounds ammmaazzzinnngggg. And Elizabby, I wonder why that Stepford Wife image won’t go away? Hmm.

  36. Cosmo’s fat option … strikes me as more fictive than real. I’ve never heard of all those dishes on the same table at once; some of them I’ve never run across in my life, period. Not that it couldn’t make a fine meal, though not to my taste, but … it’s like insisting that not only do we all eat a triple cheeseburger at least once a week, it’s a triple cheeseburger, fries, a side of poutine, pie a la mode, and a beer milkshake. It’s like a meal cobbled together from … some hypothetical fat folks’ cookbook, rather than anything described from life.

    The post-holiday fat shaming has begun: this evening on the Beeb, they devoted a long segment to it, about how the folks in Compton are sooooo fat and unhealthy, and it occurred to me – not for the first time – that so long as we’re kept gazing at our own fat navels, we’re not doing fuck else. Because it seems to me that Compton has much heavier burdens to bear than mere fat, and the last thing they need is a heaving serving of hot shame on top of it.

  37. You know what I had two servings of?

    Green beans. Prepared by my Spanish cousin, with heaps of paprika and sweetly browned onions and lots of deliciousness.

    Sure, there was turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and that was all okay, but THE GREEN BEANS. Ugh so goooooood. And because I didn’t feel like I was making up for starving myself and denying myself for months I felt fine about eating as much of the green stuff as I wanted.

  38. Australian, so Thanksgiving isn’t a worry for me. But yeah, it’s coming into the silly season (and I’ve had my annual look at the swimsuits available for my size and decided to go with a pair of leggings and an old bra instead – at least I know they’ll fit!) and there’s the chronic “you must have all this delicious food but don’t gain weight” stuff hitting the stores compounded by the usual “you must be appropriately thin and beautiful in order to wear a swimsuit in public” summer weight loss images.

    My take on the whole mess is that if I want something, I should get the best available, and enjoy every second of it. Toast with butter rather than margarine, full sugar versions of things rather than the “diet” type, the full-fat milk rather than the Hi-Lo. If I’m craving something, I want that something, not a cardboard imitation. Strangely enough, if I have what I’m after, I’m more readily satisfied than if I stuff myself on a more “virtuous” substitute.

    As for the “bikini body” – I’ve never had one of those, and at this stage in my life, I’m not likely to have one (unless I manage to find the castle on the crag and the Igor to assist). So I’ll stick with the one I have at present, and live with it and in it.

  39. I made T-day dinner for the first time in my life (usually I just make the pumpkin cheesecake) and it was quite labor-intensive, but absolutely worth it.

    I made:
    –turkey breast (oh, look, white meat only) because it was a smaller amount of turkey and there were only two of us anyway
    –stuffing (with celery and onion and no sausage!) — well, actually, my husband made it, and that’s the recipe he picked.
    –mashed potatoes (the ‘fatty’ recipe) because they taste better as is.
    –steamed asparagus (steamed!) because asparagus was on insane sale and steaming is the easiest way to deal with it
    –pumpkin cheesecake (pumpkin!), which, frankly, I make about six times a year, if not more. But it’s the best thing ever.

    So I’m about fifty-fifty on Cosmo’s list. And I don’t think I magically ‘saved’ any number of calories, because, well, if I were having T-day dinner anywhere else, I’d probably eat about the same thing. (Well, maybe green beans almondine instead, which is what my mom, 750 miles away, was making when I called this morning.)

  40. Well, hell. I clicked through to that Cosmo article and generally my dinners already have all those “trim” substitutions, excepting I use some butter in my mashed potatoes.

    So… Um….

    I must be thin! Oh, frabjous knowledge. Even though, at “normal weight”, Cosmo once pronounced me fat because I could hold an entire pencil case under my boob (A single pencil was a nice chest that needed a bra, and their funny joke was me) – well, now they’re going the other way!

    Also, it strikes me that eating a whole cup of cranberry sauce would be unusual. Possibly doable – I love cranberry sauce! Yum! – but even I, an avowed cran-hard, would find it difficult.

  41. I ate one serving of food tonight at dinner. Not because I was starving myself, but because I was a) drunk, and b) full on pita chips and hummus. I’m looking forward to leftovers tomorrow!

    Put that in your straw and suck it, Cosmo.

  42. “For a waistline-friendly version (with only 159 calories per cup), beg Grandma to prepare them with skim milk and chicken broth instead of cream and butter.”

    That part had me almost raging. Okay, you want to minimize your calories, but do you have to bring Grandma and the rest of the family into it? Fuck you, dieting person!

    I ate myself sick. My body is barely used to eating regular sized meals (sigh clinical depression), I hadn’t eaten all day and worked myself into a state of considerable hunger, and it was *way* delicious. And I managed to do it without guilt! Okay, I was guilty that being sick made me incapable of going to my second thanksgiving dinner, but whatever.

  43. But Cosmo! Due to divorce and being in love, I had three Thanksgiving Dinners! In 24 hours! And I had seconds at all of them! Oh noes! Does that mean I will gain 27-33 pounds?? Quick! Run an article telling me how to Drop Thanksgiving Weight – Fast!Also being in Canada, I ate my three dinners last month. And didn’t gain any weight. So … eat it Cosmo!

  44. I’m stuffed, I loved every bite of it, I had TWO slices of dessert, AND I’m doing another big yummy dinner tomorrow. Kiss my fat ass, Cosmo.

  45. Happily prepared the feast with my dad helping a lot due to my increasing disability, after freaking out in the garage last night that I couldn’t POSSIBLY handle it. :) Coated the turkey with olive oil and sprinkled on marjoram, tarragon and herbs of Provence – ten minutes, stuffed & in the oven. Everybody loves my stuffing with onions and celery and plenty of butter. No fat salad – because with pomegranate seeds and mandarin oranges with their respective juices over mixed greens it just doesn’t have fat. Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie and rolls with more butter. Also, lovely, lovely gravy.

    I ate til I was full, skipped the pie until breakfast tomorrow, and no guilt ensued.

  46. Seriously, best thing I read all day.

    Best thing about being a grown up?

    Eating whatever the hell you want for breakfast (OK, I let my Kid do it today, also)!

    PIE! OM NOM NOM!

  47. Cosmo’s fat option … strikes me as more fictive than real. I’ve never heard of all those dishes on the same table at once; some of them I’ve never run across in my life, period. Not that it couldn’t make a fine meal, though not to my taste, but … it’s like insisting that not only do we all eat a triple cheeseburger at least once a week, it’s a triple cheeseburger, fries, a side of poutine, pie a la mode, and a beer milkshake. It’s like a meal cobbled together from … some hypothetical fat folks’ cookbook, rather than anything described from life.

    Usually, I’m the first to point out unrealistic descriptions of what fat people eat, but I just checked, and every single one of those items except the spiked cider was part of my family’s traditional holiday menu growing up. The stuffing did have sausage and tons of butter (though it also had onions, celery, etc. — I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive), the sweet potatoes were candied to death and topped with marshmallows, the gravy was real, the mashed potatoes were made with butter and milk and sour cream, and the green been casserole was indeed the Campbell’s soup recipe. (I wonder if it’s a generational thing. I think of that as a very ’50s/’60s menu, even though I grew up in the ’80s — my family just never changed a damned thing. I suspect it’s also a very midwestern line-up of foods.)

    Funny thing about that, though — for a very long time, I didn’t like any of it except turkey (white meat), mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. I came around to the stuffing as a teenager — though I’ve come to prefer versions more like the “skinny swap” there as an adult. Still despise dark meat, green bean casserole and super-sweet sweet potatoes. (Thought I despised sweet potatoes in general until I learned they can be prepared in savory ways — I’d never had them except in that form on holidays. Now I love them. )

    Which means that in every case except the mashed potatoes (which I will always make with butter, milk and sour cream, thank you very much), I would indeed prefer the “skinny swap” option, just because they’re more to my taste. So I absolutely agree with the basic point that assuming all fatties would naturally choose option A (but should choose option B!) is complete bullshit. But yes, that combination of foods really does appear on holiday dinner tables all at once. :)

  48. Also, what the fuck cranberry sauce recipe are they using for the “traditional” version? We always use the recipe from the back of the bag, which basically goes like this:

    1 bag cranberries
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup water

    Throw everything in pot, bring to boil, turn off heat.

    Considering that you’re spreading out that cup of sugar over the entire recipe, and as Arwen wisely points out most people are unlikely to eat an entire CUP of cranberry sauce in one go… shut up, Cosmo.

  49. there’s the chronic “you must have all this delicious food but don’t gain weight” stuff hitting the stores compounded by the usual “you must be appropriately thin and beautiful in order to wear a swimsuit in public” summer weight loss images.

    Oh, man. I never considered that living in the southern hemisphere means you get bathing suit season and holiday food neuroses (and new year’s resolutions) at the same time! The ladymags must go berserk.

    Also, what the fuck cranberry sauce recipe are they using for the “traditional” version?

    I think they were talking about canned cranberry jelly. (Which, yes, was always on our table — but so was a homemade cranberry relish that was pretty much cranberries, sugar, water and orange juice concentrate, I think. )

  50. I wish I had remembered that US Thanksgiving was coming up (you folks don’t hold yours on a Monday?), because now everyone on the internetz is talking about ‘Thanksgiving food’, and I don’t have even a small-size Tofurky in the house.

    Want. Tofurky. Now.

  51. I went to my sister’s for Thanksgiving today and it was wonderful–tasty food and very good company. And the pumpkin pie was delicious! I’m used to pumpkin pie just being the thing you eat on Thanksgiving because it’s traditional, but this one was worth eating for its own sake. And yeah, I stuffed myself silly, and that’s OK with me. (I wouldn’t want to eat like that every day because it hurt a little, but for food that good that I don’t get very often, a little pain is an acceptable trade.)

    Do those of y’all who make pie know about replacing the water in the pie crust with half water, half vodka? I just learned about it this year. The water in the pie crust develops the gluten, which makes the crust tougher and less flaky. If you use half vodka you still have the liquid you need but it doesn’t activate the gluten, and then the alcohol bakes out when the pie is in the oven. We tried that for our pie-making day (we have an annual pie-making day just before Thanksgiving, my mom and sister and me) and it worked out really well. The dough was easy to handle, too.

  52. LOVE

    Just so much love because you have said better what I have been telling people the past week.
    I hate this holiday, for personal reasons not related to food, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to escape all the moralizing of food at the dinner table, and parties, and work potlucks, and in grocery lines as everyone waits to pay for their “evil” food while surrounded by stupid magazines telling us not to gain weight.
    So I actually told people this year that I don’t like to hear negative talk about what I choose to ingest during my meals. Most seemed to get it and agree. There was at least no mention of this or that dish being “bad” while I was forking it into my mouth.

    And, shall I say that despite my negative emotions at this time of year, I was able to enjoy more food, now that I don’t intensely analyze and criticize myself for every morsel. I wasn’t obsessed about dessert, which I always considered my “weak spot” since I love sweets. In fact, I didn’t care at all what was coming after the main course because instead of having all of my mental energy focused on the pies, I was thoroughly enjoying the vegetables, meats, and breads – some loaded with butter, some not. I finally had a completely satisfying experience with a Thanksgiving dinner and zero guilt afterward. It’s easier to be thankful this way actually.

  53. Elizabby, I wondered if I’d seen you in the menstrual cups community, and your icon makes me sure of it! Nice to see you here. (I post as aedifica there.)

  54. Dear Cosmo,

    So…I can drink red wine only because it’s less fattening, and I can sorta have pumpkin pie, because it has fiber — but back in my late teens (when I used to semi-read Cosmo) you happily informed me (in tediously coy prose) exactly how many calories were in sperm — thirty calories in a tablespoon, IIRC, which is a third of my calorie allowance for white meat turkey! — and yet, you never felt the need to provide me with a “Slim Swap” choice to swallowing jizz.

    Happy holidays,
    A Cosmo Grrrl

  55. (Though I posted that comment based on the icon my mail client showed me, which is different from the one I actually see here. Weird.)

  56. Oh, yes, menstrual cups forever! I’m still struggling a bit with the icons, but I think I’m getting there!

  57. We went to dinner at a friend’s house tonight. I provided the mashed potatoes (my mother’s special recipe involving sour cream, cottage cheese, a drizzle of melted butter, and toasted almonds on top that is then baked. Amazingly delicious), cranberry sauce and cranberry relish, and a pumpkin pie from scratch. Mr. Twistie made his infamous macaroni salad with the olives and ham and sun dried tomatoes. In addition to what we brought there was, between everyone who lived in the house and everyone who brought stuff: turkey, bread cube stuffing, gravy, green salad, cheesy broccoli and rice, meatballs in gravy with mushrooms, candied yams with marshmallows, crescent rolls, green beans, another pumpkin pie, lemon pound cake, and ice cream.

    From all this bounty, I chose what I felt like eating (though I was a bit disappointed those green beans never seemed to make it to my end of the table), passed on what I didn’t want (I can’t stand mushrooms, I prefer my tubers savory for the most part, and marshmallows have never appealed to me on any level), and wound up well-satisfied without being stuffed beyond capacity. By the time dessert rolled around, all I wanted was one slice of the pie I’d baked. That was plenty.

    OTOH, I had Thanksgiving with a similar cast of characters a few years ago which made me want to sob uncontrollably into my Corn Flakes. The primary cooks for the event had recently gone on Atkins, and they had a lot of pretend foods on that table.

    When I was asked if I wanted mashed potatoes I said I would love some. I adore mashed potatoes (or, indeed, potatoes cooked nearly any way you can imagine). Imagine my disappointment when I found myself with a heaping mound of ‘good’ pureed cauliflower on my plate! By the time they started passing around the ‘lasagna,’ I knew not to even bother. Good thing, too. That consisted of paper thin slices of zucchini lightly sauteed in butter. I went home that night and polished off another huge meal just to eat something that really was what it was advertised to be.

    The worst thing about it was that if I’d been offered pureed cauliflower and zucchini sauteed in butter, I would have been more than happy with them. I love cauliflower and zucchini, but never get them at home because Mr. Twistie can’t stand them. It was labeling them as appropriate substitutes for foods they just plain couldn’t be that made them so unsatisfying.

    Tonight I had the perfect IE Thanksgiving. It reminded me strongly of Thanksgiving with my parents, where food was a gift to be shared freely rather than a punishment/reward to be doled out with an eyedropper and a lecture. I like Thanksgiving my way better than Cosmo’s.

  58. I made my own cranberry sauce this year for the first time, using a recipe I found on Chowhound. A cup of sugar, 12 ounces of cranberries, 2 teaspoons of orange zest (they said tangerine zest, but I couldn’t find any tangerines), 3 inches of cinnamon stick (discarded after cooking), and (the kicker!) a cup of cabernet sauvignon subbing for the water. And kept it in the fridge for two days before eating, for extra nomminess. Do I get Bad Fatty Points for the extra calories, or Good Girl Points for the flavonoids?

    You would think that after 50 or so years of hounding American women to eat dainty little bites on Thanksgiving to Stay Trim to Hold Your Man (hah), that there was actually some efficacy to their guilt-tripping. But putting out cooked food in front of hungry, tired people and expecting them not to partake is shit-lubed thinking on a par with locking people who have been awake for 48 hours in a room with a bed and expecting them not to lie down and go to sleep. And you can triple that when it comes to the people who have actually been hauling ass in the kitchen all day and have, uh, presumably burned a few calories in the process. But boy, do they ever succeed in the guilt part, present company obviously excluded.

  59. and yet, you never felt the need to provide me with a “Slim Swap” choice to swallowing jizz.

    Oh, it’ll probably come along, to go with the abundant articles for men about how to make your jizz taste good. Men will no doubt read the ‘What to Eat to Have Flavorful Low-Calorie Diet Ejaculate’ articles avidly and then promptly ignore them, because all the best stuff (garlic, coffee, chocolate, red meat, chicken for crying out loud, asparagus) is supposed to make your spooge taste vile and the marketing experts have not yet figured out how to shame men into trying to live on pineapple and cilantro, or to equate their self-worth with that particular aspect of spunk.

  60. Oh, and against my better judgment, I gave Cosmo my eyeballs. Subbing white meat for dark? Aside from the fact that most white meat tastes like sawdust to me unless the preparer really knows what sie is doing, does anyone actually eat white meat without putting gravy on it? I didn’t make any freakin’ gravy because with drumsticks it’s totally not necessary. And seriously, begging Grandma to make diet-slop mashed potatoes instead? The hell? Bring your own damn potatoes if it’s that bloody important to you. (I roasted red potatoes and carrots underneath the drumsticks — yum.)

    Also, I can’t find a stuffing recipe on earth that doesn’t have celery and onions in it. I tried, believe me, because those are NOT my favorite veggies. (I went with scallions, removing most of them and the celery after cooking the mushrooms in them. And added chestnuts. Schlurp.) And my candied yams have butter and brown sugar, all right, but no marshmallows, and they have pecans, which means a little of them go a long way. That’s what these diet-slop articles never seem to take into account — being full and satisfied does make it less likely that you’ll be hungry two hours later, no?

  61. this year for thanksgiving i brought a sweet potato casserole (with marshmallows), mashed potatoes (with sour cream, butter, and CHEESE!!!!), and home made french bread.

    also on the table was orange jello salad (yum!), green beans, broccoli and rice casserole, buns, and turkey. for dessert we had ambrosia, root beer floats, apple pie, and sweet potato pie.

    frankly i was satisfied with my meal and held off on dessert for later. but everything was sooooooooooooooooooooooooo good!!!! not one bit of guilt. ^_^

    oh, and for anyone who makes sweet potato casseroles… a few years back i found a recipe that adds some orange juice to the mix. it adds this wonderful zest that works *perfectly* with the sweet potatoes. i highly recommend it!

  62. I’m proud to say that I read the Cosmo article and it didn’t cost me a single Sanity Watchers point, despite the fact that I ate several of the ooga-booga-fattening dishes on the list. I didn’t make it to my family’s Thanksgiving for only the second time in my life. I developed my disability just about a year ago, and it was just too daunting to make the trip even though as late as yesterday afternoon I was still hoping to catch a train this morning. But I realized I just couldn’t do the travel, much as I miss my family. So they put me on speaker phone and we texted pictures of our meals.

    All of the grocery stores in our part of Massachusetts were closed today, so my partner beat feet to New Hampshire since some there were open early in the day. We had homemade tofu turkey, not the tofurky brand, then the traditional stuff that Cosmo didn’t want us to eat: green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar, and rolls with real butter. All right, we did have vegetarian stuffing with lots of veggies, but that’s nothing new for me. I don’t think I’ve ever had the kind Cosmo described. Cranberries were fresh with sugar, and pie was chocolate pudding in graham cracker crust – probably even fewer calories than pumpkin. I figured there was no reason to overeat, since we have enough food for days. I credit FA and SP with the lack of need to overeat. I think it has been three Thanksgivings in a row that I have not felt uncomfortably full, because I know I can eat yummy food whenever I want. There’s no need for permission because it’s a holiday. I don’t need to gobble up the potatoes before they are gone, because we can make more potatoes tomorrow and wanting more potatoes is morally neutral.

  63. Men will no doubt read the ‘What to Eat to Have Flavorful Low-Calorie Diet Ejaculate’ articles avidly and then promptly ignore them

    No, no, the articles will be for women – “What To Feed Your Man to Give Him Tasty Low-Cal Y’Know… Stuff” and unless I’m totally mistaken, I think they already exist.

  64. Gah. And also Gah.

    I’m in the UK; no Thanksgiving for me, but Christmas soon (what do Americans eat for Christmas? is it Turkey again?). What I find most irritating of all is that I go home to my parents’ and Mum goes ON AND ON AND ON about how OMG FAT I am (and she is) and how we should be loosing lots of weight and blah blah blah… and THEN after all the fat shaming crap if I turn down a second helping of Turkey (because I’m full already) then I’m a dreadful horrible person for implying her cooking sucks. Quite how I’m supposed to loose-weight-by-eating-less (supposing this was ever going to work for me in the first place, which it kinda does except that I get ill from not having eaten enough) WHILST eating seconds of Christmas dinner I do not know.

  65. (what do Americans eat for Christmas? is it Turkey again?)

    Depends. My dad’s family is mostly Mexican. We eat tamales and salsa for Christmas breakfast and dinner at my uncles was usually tostadas and pork meat chili with various sides. I think my mom’s mom might have done turkey a few times, but that side of the family is equally likely to do ham, stuffed cabbage rolls, kielbasa and sauerkraut, and thanks to my dad, tamales. My inlaws usually do grilled salmon with fancy sides or a big beef roast.

  66. ” the marketing experts have not yet figured out how to shame men into trying to live on pineapple and cilantro, or to equate their self-worth with that particular aspect of spunk.”

    Actually, they do know how to do that, it just takes time. They’ve already implemented it, I’m sure. It’s really just a variant (or absolute copy of) the reason women go for the same thing. I think they call it Operation Years of Oppression.

    Once Operation Years of Opression is complete then men shall also have magazines they pay good money for that tell them their jizz tastes bad, their dicks are both too small and too big and that no one will ever love them until they learn to alternate between manipulation and blind obedience.

  67. I love how green bean casserole “racks up” 241 calories. TWO HUNDRED FORTY-ONE CALORIES! OMFG RUUUUNNN AWWAAAAYY…..

    That said, I ate three servings of steamed spinach, because it was the Green Vegetable Available, and because even though I hate the taste my body was all “EAT THE SPINACH.” I must be low on some spinach-offering nutrient.

    I also ate three helpings of cranberry sauce and so much ice cream there wasn’t any left for seconds, but that’s kinda the POINT. :P

  68. We eat goose for Christmas in my family, although last year my dad and I made the Italian seven fishes feast (la vigilia) and it was insanely delicious.

    I made dinner for my friends last night (not living in the US currently) and it was great, and I definitely ate beyond the point of physical comfort, but the perfect amount to let me try everything and to feel satisfied emotionally with the holiday.

    I don’t really eat past fullness except on holidays where there’s a lot of variety, so I’m not going to get on my own case about it.

  69. I’ve never encountered — or even heard of — stuffing made with sausage. Sounds unappetizing to me. And I don’t like pecan pie very much; it’s too sweet. I do usually prefer dark meat turkey, although my mother-in-law just cooks a turkey breast or two, and it’s pretty good. The reason white meat usually sucks is that it takes much less time to cook than the thigh does. So, to get the dark meat to the point that it won’t give anybody food poisoning, you have to cook the white meat until way past the point where it’s done. (And I actually usually do eat white meat without gravy — I put cranberry sauce on it.)

    For those who prefer savory uses of sweet potatoes, they’re surprisingly good as a base for quiche. I love quiche, but ricotta cheese can make it a bit pricey as a main dish. Boiled mashed sweet potato adds the same level of creaminess, and sweet potatoes are usually really cheap (at least where I come from). Beat it together with a couple of eggs (also cheap — notice a theme here?), add a bit of a good flavorful cheese and whatever other filling sounds like a good idea (onions, veggies, meat), pour into a pie crust and bake ’til done: inexpensive yumminess.

  70. (Sorry for the double-post!)
    Dani, is there any chance you’re iron-deficient? I crave dark leafy greens like crazy any time I have to have more than a vial or two of blood drawn.

  71. But yes, that combination of foods really does appear on holiday dinner tables all at once. :)

    And so I was told by someone in RL too! However, we concluded that my ignorance was likely regional rather than generational. (I’m in my 50s.) I grew up on (and still live in) the West Coast, in Bay Area California, and the Thanksgivings I hark back to tended to include a lot of fruit, mushrooms, and a couple of salads, rather than sausage or oysters or whatnot. Not because it was healthy or low calorie or any of that shit, mind, it was just how it was, doubtless influenced by ready availability. And family idiosyncrasy, which probably accounts for the pomegranates that were given to the kids before big extended family dinners, to keep us occupied. Someone up-thread mentioned tamales, too – YES! This was absolutely the season for tamales. Not on the day for us, but the day after, when no-one wanted to face more turkey just yet.

    Aside from the article from Cosmo, though, I’ve never even heard of adding butter to hot spiced cider … that’s what triggered my ‘fictive’ button. That was for hot spiced rum or brandy, and more seasonal to Winter than Autumn … but again, in retrospect, this may well be a regional thing too.

  72. What’s funny is Cosmo tries to alternate their tactics each year. This year it’s the “swap and save” method. Next year it’ll be “eat what you want in moderation.”

    An aside, but relevant, I was reading Lucky‘s October issue for about twenty minutes before I realized it was from two years ago. It had a purple cover, a brunette quasi starlet and a bunch of pages of hot boots I should purchase, all of the things I associate with the fall fashion roundup!

    Only after it mentioned being inspired by LIPSTICK JUNGLE did I think to look at the year. Oops.

  73. I actually eat white turkey meat without gravy, possibly making me sort of a freak. Usually I mash some potatoes on top of it. But I also brine my turkey, so it stays really moist.

  74. So.. um… should I feel horrible for serving my family stuffing, cornbread dressing, mashed taters, and three types of pie (pumpkin, pecan, and chocolate fudge) with the turkey last night?

    Mmmmmm….. pie.

  75. I love that this thread has, in part, become a sharing of what we ate and how much we enjoyed it. :) I went to a friend’s house and brought my own dinner, since I was to be the only vegan there. It was takeout from the local vegetarian restaurant. And they made certain dishes vegan for me (and everyone), like the mashed potatoes and one of the desserts. But there was a lot of so-called “teasing” going on about how much they LOVE TO EAT FLESH (that was the word that was used). Luckily I am skillful at letting ignorant vegetarian-baiting roll off my back. Anyway, it was otherwise a nice time, and it was very kind of them to include and welcome me.

    I’ve always found Thanksgiving to be a strange holiday, because it’s so rigid in the way it’s supposed to be celebrated. Like Kate, I grew up not liking most of the traditional foods. I wasn’t especially fond of turkey or gravy, stuffing seemed like a heap of bread, which grossed me out, cranberries were too sour to me, and pumpkins and green beans, oh no indeed. Was I a picky eater? Oh heavens yes.

    So I didn’t understand the seeming overwhelming temptation to eat until the point of imminent explosion. I would have some turkey, mashed potatoes w/o gravy, salad, and whatever dessert wasn’t made of pumpkin. In the official seasonal cultural craziness over what to cook and NOT eat at Thanksgiving and other holidays, I actually think that it’s culturally prescribed to overeat AND not to overeat, like a double-pronged incite-and-punish dynamic. IOW, “Oh, all the delicious food, how can you resist “over”eating?/But if you do, you are so BAD!” I don’t understand where that comes from, but here in America we seem to be addicted to certain mutually exclusive propositions like that. It’s kind of like most of the other messages women get about how to be, you know?

  76. I adored Thanksgiving dinners in the US. Like Christmas but with even more food and nothing else to divert attention from the lovely lovely food. Although I have to say, green bean casserole mings if you weren’t brought up on it.

    We hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for some American friends one year, for which I made five pies (apple, pumpkin, pecan, key lime, and a slightly more English redcurrant meringue), and was told I cook like a Texan grandma. That’s one of my favourite compliments EVER.

  77. I have to agree with other commentary: I don’t eat to overfullness anymore, because I’m not afraid that someone is going to come and take it away from me.

    Oddly, Meowser, I love white meat, and I prefer it unbrined! My mom does a nice brined turkey, but I rather like the slightly more stuff with, of course, a nice load of cranberry on it. Everyone thinks I’m nuts that I’m not fond of gravy. Now, agreed that I don’t like a dry turkey, but I butter baste.

    Roast turkey and stuffing and cranberry are such a fave for me I do it with turkey breast, as a roulade for supper, at least a few times a year.

    Maybe I just love roasting stuff; diced root veggies (yam, parsnip, potato, carrot), tossed with garlic and onions, balsamic and a little olive oil, and then roasted until they caramelize is the food I’d ask for if I were dying in the morning. BECAUSE YUM.

  78. I missed your instructions until the day after Thanksgiving (since the only thing I abstained from yesterday was using my computer – I left it off ALL day!). But I still managed to follow your instructions.

    If I ate like that all the time, I probably would feel guilty because it would be a form of self-sabotage. But it wouldn’t even occur to me to attempt to curb consumption or to feel guilty about eating food on a feast day like Thanksgiving.

  79. I think a big reason why people overeat is because they think they might go on a diet soon so they want to have all the forbidden foods while they can. I’ve been guilty of this in the past. Whereas now I can turn down chocolate cake if I don’t really want it because I know that chocolate cake (maybe not that particular one but the abstract form) will still exist tomorrow and I can have it tomorrow if I want. This works beautifully as long since I don’t want chocolate cake all the time but do, in fact, enjoy other foods too.

    It’s the same with procrastination. I found that I procrastinate because I think once I start working, there’ll be all work and no fun for a really long period of time. I’m more productive when I work for a bit and then have fun for a bit, and I’m less likely to procrastinate if I know some fun is just around the corner.

  80. I found that I procrastinate because I think once I start working, there’ll be all work and no fun for a really long period of time.
    Wow. I just realised how horribly true that is for me too. Thanks, Other Caitlin!

  81. Upthread we were discussing weight gain after one meal…it reminded me of a story about my mom and dad, the first year they were married, and the first time Mom had hosted Thanksgiving. Queen of the Side Dish, she worked for days preparing the meal, and somehow just before supper, my dad and my uncle got into a testosterone-fueled eating contest. They hopped on the scale before and after dinner—and during the meal my dad had gained 9 1/2 pounds. He brags that he promptly vomited, then returned to the table to eat another 2 1/2 pounds worth to win the contest.

    By the way, it’s 37 happily married years later, and my mom still finds almost nothing amusing about this story. Every time he launches into a retelling, I can see her smile squinch into a thin line and her jaw clench, as he laughs his way through it, barely able to talk through his chuckling, still trying to convince her that she just didn’t get the joke, and it was actually hi-LAR-ious. (And then he tries to make up for annoying her all over again by chatting with Grandma about The Young and The Restless, which he studies up on before major holidays to keep Gram pacified, chatting about Victor as if he were one of the relative who just couldn’t make it to dinner this year.)

    Anyway, in the context of this post, it made me consider how deeply ironic it was that one of my first memories about food shame was of my dad pulling me aside at another family gathering to tell me to stop eating so many Fritos, because people were judgmental, and would think less of me if they thought I was “a glutton.” Although his intentions were good (and he’s right, people ARE judgmental), I remember feeling completely humiliated, and on some level sensing that cultural rules about food were WAY more complicated (and unjust) than I had previously been aware.

    My face still burns a little I think whenever I get a whiff of that foot-y/Frito odor.

    I have let myself be irritated with him about this on occassion, but I also realize it’s got to be pretty agonizing to have to take a moment to teach your kids “Hey. . .just so you know, here’s a way the world really sucks.”

  82. Alicia Maud, that’s a pretty incredible story, both parts of it. It’s sort of interesting that your dad meant to warn you that “people” were judgmental about food, but that your first experience of it actually came from him. On a lighter note: too bad you didn’t think of challenging him to a Frito-eating contest on the spot. ;-)

    I don’t mean to make light of you or your memory, though. My own father had/has food issues that he projected onto us. I was criticized for eating too much (I believe the phrase was “an enormous amount of food”) at a meal, and in retrospect, knowing the symptoms, I had eaten a lot rapidly because I was suffering a blood-sugar drop. And like you, I have a similarly shame-based, holiday-time family memory that screwed me up around a certain issue, albeit not food-related.

    In conclusion, I have been meaning to tell you that your pussycat is the cutest kitty ever! Look at those little paws!

  83. I don’t bother with Cosmo any more.

    This years dinner was: 22 lb bird shot up with mead, roasted breast down and seasoned with poultry spice. 1 cube of butter and 1 cup of mead in the bottom of the roaster.

    Stuffing/dressing (the bird was stuffed, the extra baked later): 2 loaves white bread, 2 loaves wheat bread, 1 loaf French bread, 4-5 potato rolls. All cubed and seasoned with 2 cubes of butter melted with 1 cup of mead, sage, poultry seasoning, sweet onions and water chestnuts.

    Mashed potatoes: Idaho spuds, 1 cube of butter a cup of milk and 2 packages of cream cheese (made a big enough batch so I have Christmas dinner potatoes ready).

    Candied yams: garnet yams, boiled and mashed and baked with a syrup mixture of 1 cube of butter, a ton of brown sugar and pumpkin pie spices. Heavy on the pumpkin pie spices.

    Gravy: the turkey drippings after the turkey has roasted for 5 hours, slurry of flour and milk and lots of liquid from simmering the neck and giblets.

    Pre-dinner snack was black olives, celery, cream cheese, Co-Jack cheese and Wensleydale cheese.

    Since tehre was just three of us, I have LOTS of yummy leftovers. I ate until I was wonderfully full and not one guilt feeling at all :D

  84. Sorry about the above message. It was my subconscious mind typing on my behalf having read all the menu. I deny responsibility.

  85. @Lu – Despite having had an ED for some years (in the past), I also find that the mixed cultural messages of food don’t bother me much, and I attribute that in large part to being vegan. It makes me wonder how much of the overt ‘guilt’ around the theme of food-as-gluttony also reflects an unconscious guilt over the origins of and violence involved in most North American food. It would certainly account for the ease with which food has become a morally contested site, just with the valid moral concern displaced onto the wrong aspect (weight/self-control).
    At any rate, when I eat with others, in spite of being very fat, I often get them encouraging me to eat *more*, because they’re fearful that I won’t get enough nutrients (funny, because it’s the meat-eaters who tend to have trouble getting enough vitamins, not us!) Eat more? Okay, gladly! :-D

  86. Vidya, I think it’s true that if you’re vegan, you’re more used to ignoring food-related cultural imperatives (is that the right word?). It’s like how you go into a grocery store and just ignore whole sections of the store; bakery, meat, and dairy depts just don’t exist for me, for the most part. I guess after a few years of being vegan, you start thinking that a lot of other food-related stuff just doesn’t apply to you, either. Like, I’m not going to pay much attention to radio ads for supermarkets b/c they’re mostly about things I don’t eat and how to prepare “that holiday roast.” So a lot of other messages are dragged along in the wake of that particular disregard, including what one does, can, and should eat at holiday meals.

    Of course, the cultural imperative to be thin and pretty is something much harder to ignore. And the consciousness of being a non-skinny vegan is always there. Still, I like that your friends urge you to eat more. I know for sure I need more of the nutrients that are included in chocolate layer cake.

  87. Lu, no worries about making light of the story. I wish I had thought of the Frito challenge. (:

    Your story about the blood-sugar drop made me think about the fact that in retrospect, I think there was some other stuff going on with me at the time, too–I was a nervous kid around big groups of people, and was eating more following an incident of sexual abuse–my parents were super supportive and caring, but I don’t think they recognized signs of me numbing out with food, which I probably could have used some help with.

    Not to mention, I was just at the beginning of a growth spurt that had me among the tallest kids in my grade for many years. PLUS, we had been running around playing tag all afternoon, and, you know, I mighta been HUNGRY. I don’t know if I would say my folks had “issues” with food in any particularly complicated way, but I do know it was something to laugh and nod about when my brother stuffed his face, and when I did it I got warned about my stomach being “out of control.” I was about 7 or 8, and this was all about the time I started thinking of myself as fat, though it wasn’t really true until much later. I saw a pic of myself from that summer recently, and I was muscular little kid–imagine a little barrel with ringlets, in Wonderwoman Underoos. Clearly a few extra corn chips were doing me no harm, but of course I had already been convinced otherwise.

  88. P.S. when you talk of the violent origins of N. American food, I hear you totally, of course. But it also makes me think of the ultimately violent origins/context of the Thanksgiving holiday itself. Fully cognizant of what white Europeans did to the Native Americans, I nevertheless always thought that the first “thanksgiving” truly was an exception, and that we are commemmorating the help that the Native Americans gave the colonists, i.e., saved their asses from starvation. This year I’ve been learning a different story—how could I have been so ignorant for so long?—and boy, do I feel dumb. I don’t know how true this is, but I read that the pilgrims had just returned from wiping out 700 Pequots and that’s partly what they were celebrating?

    Sorry for the off-topic detour.

  89. Another NorCal native here, so most of the Thanksgiving dishes I ate growing up were heavy on the fresh vegetables or fruit. I never even knew about green bean casserole until my mid-20’s. Anyway, here’s my Thanksgiving menu from yesterday
    Turkey (no gravy – do not like!)
    Cranberry sauce (homemade by mom)
    Garlic Mashed potatoes
    bread stuffing with apples, celery, onions, rasins and bacon
    raw veggies + grapes
    roasted cauliflower
    sweet potatos (from mom)
    crustless pumpkin pie (do not like to make or eat pie crust)
    apple pie w. crust (from mom)

    Noe I have lots of nice leftovers.
    My turkey WAS a headless fatty and had a bad case of the death fatz, to boot. Not that being thin would’ve saved it from its final fate ;-) It was the first really greasy turkey I’ve encountered. Note to self – go back to buying the cheapo store brand 12 pounders.

  90. Kate: Thank you so much. Somehow, I realized (years before I found SP) that my body-shape was “short and solid” and it would never change, regardless of how little I ate. In a fit of what I then considered outright rebellion, I decided that I would ignore all “proper eating” advice and never diet; if eating real butter on my potatoes killed me six months earlier than otherwise, at least I’d die happy. But it was hard to hold to that goal when I was going it alone for so many years; I really appreciate you and your co-mods, and all the sensible advice in this community.

    Naath: You mum and mine must be cut from the same cloth. Before dinner, she told us we shouldn’t eat pasta, rice, bread or potatoes because the ‘complex carbohydrates break down to simple sugars that make you gain weight’. During dinner, after I’ve already had two helpings of “stove pipes” (rigatoni with tomato sauce, a family tradition), she urged me to have another so there won’t be so many leftovers. Argghhh! Then she feels virtuous eating two pieces of pie because she eats only the filling and not the crust. Two pieces of pie is fine — it’s her fucking stomach — but don’t try to convince me that the sugar in the pie filling is less “bad” than the sugar/carbs in the crust.

    For the record: Our traditional Thanksgiving meal (and Christmas, also) is baked ham. Dad fixes it with whole cloves poked into the top, and it cooks in a sauce of brown sugar and pineapple juice, with pineapple rings on top of the ham. Yum! But none of my siblings made the trip this year, so our feast was simple — ham, stove pipes, and pumpkin or apple pie — and that was plenty. Other years we’ve had sweet-potato casserole with marshmallows, cranberry sauce (from the can), and a couple of more pies, but that’s when we have 5 – 7 people around the table, instead of only 3.

  91. That’s interesting — I never signed up for a monster, and thought the space would be blank. Is it automatic? And if there’s going to be something there, how can I put in the windmill icon that I use at LJ?

  92. @ Lu — Excellent points about both the cultural imperatives and the history of the holiday. Re: the latter, at least with Canadian Thanksgiving, we don’t mark it as a celebration of genocide (at least not anymore, if we ever did, before my time), just as a day of thankfulness.
    And, yeah, I am so used to considering most restaurant dishes and stuff in the supermarket as ‘non-food’ anyways, that maybe that’s a factor. I mean, I don’t feel like I’ve ‘surrounded by temptations’ as some omnivores say they do, because there’s so little advertised or sold around me that I would consider edible, that I’m rather more concerned about getting hungry when away from home and not being able to find anything, anywhere. I would like more temptations, not fewer, please. :-)

  93. Those holiday mags full of “Do not touch” images of food followed by “How to make yourself smaller – Don’t actually Eat what we show you in this mag!” tips just make me so…perplexed. So I had to giggle when I was watching an episode of Phineas and Ferb about being a “Flawless Girl”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4IyzULypAs Quite a hoot at how well they sum up pretty much everything the seemingly contradictory images and tips magazines try to give women. In a quick sum: “Only IF you buy all of our products do you then have a CHANCE at being a ‘flawless girl'”. Even better is that the female character in the episode totally rips on the folks for making standards such that no one WILL ever be capable of reaching them. Pretty fun show :)

    I had the best turkey of all this year and am about to go eat more. Wish I had pecan pie though… and I never used sausage in stuffing before. We used to use all the stuff that came in the chicken giblet baggie inside the bird but for probably a decade we’ve been doing a vegetarian crackers with celery and onion thing that is delicious and doesn’t induce that strange “what inner organ is in THIS bite” pondering that I used to have while eating stuffing!

  94. Oh, BTW, in response to the people wondering about sausage in stuffing. I can attest that it’s quite normal :) and delicious. (There, I said it. I’m a vegan because of ethics, and I do understand that meaty things can taste good.) I’ve made a vegetarian version, and it’s just as good with veggie sausage, because most of what makes sausage taste good is the spices (and the fat, yum).

    So, my mom always made chestnut stuffing, very savory, and began the recipe by sauteing breakfast sausage meat in a pan, adding a bit of chopped celery (I think) and onion, and then seasoned stuffing mix and broth. That’s what the sausage is doing in there; it’s little pieces for flavor, rather than big chunks like some people might be thinking.

  95. I too am dealing with the flu this weekend, so I ate very little and enjoyed it not at all. And tragically, that meant there was no pie at all. I managed to roast the pumpkins Wednesday night, but only managed to drag myself out of bed on Thursday to sit at the table and watch everyone else enjoy.

    My mother’s incredible stuffing features sausage and sweet potatoes. It might be the only one of “her” recipes that I really like. (Mom = Not A Chef. She also lives by the “I have enough money to provide a job to someone who needs it” credo.)

    @Twistie: During a short-lived ultra-low-carb debacle lo these many year ago, I served my husband and best friend mashed fauxtatoes made from cauliflower. They have not yet forgiven me for that one. :)

  96. Hey! That article says that you might look like someone stuffed a pumpkin down the BACK of your jeans!

    Are their stomachs in their asses and not, you know, their stomachs?

  97. Had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my son and friends. No one in this group talks about good food/bad food because we are all so aware of what that crap did to us and do not want to pass it onto the kids. Watching the kids eat is such a beautiful sight as they choose what they want, eat as much or as little as they want AND sometimes have DESSERT FIRST!!!! They all look so relaxed. I call it Zen eating.

    That being said, the subtext of this meal was one of my friends in this group who had the Lap Band put in a few months ago. She can barely eat and tries to be happy about her weight loss in her misery. I look at the kids and then at her and want what they have so much for her. Cosmo might be happy for her but I just grieve.

  98. @Lucy re: “That is also a very common symptom of anorexia, for what it’s worth, the cooking and baking for everyone except you.”

    I have long held the belief that supposed health mags encourage anorexia. When I was struggling with it (lol, was. AM), I was surprised to see how often my thoughts were mirrored in magazines. Magazines like Prevention… Jesus Christ, I enjoy their recipes, but I’ll be damned if some of the people who write for them aren’t disordered. Too much of a black and white, do or die mentality. They try to tell you to not beat yourself up over little slip-ups, but they’re talking out of their ass, because they’re the very ones who on the next page will make you feel badly if you ate __ over ____. I try to ignore it as much as possible now, knowing that by next month’s issue, they’ll have some other IMPORTANT BREAKING NEWS that will contradict what they wrote the month before.

  99. Chinese food, silly! Oh wait, maybe that’s only if you’re Jewish.

    Ha. Definitely true of my family.

    No, no, that’s on Christmas. Chinese food and a movie are longstanding Jewish Christmas traditions. But turkey on Thanksgiving is permissible. (In fact, that’s why my mom’s cooking always resembled the diet options- they keep kosher, so if they make turkey, potatoes with butter and cream are out of the question.)

  100. Just to clarify; I supported my friend in her decision. It was her decision not mine and my job was to ask questions like, “how does this work,” and, “will this hurt you in any way.” My job now as someone who loves her is to listen, still ask questions and not make it all about the FAT.

  101. We had a delightful meal, and since Thanksgiving is the holiday I’ve claimed as “ours” (meaning it’s celebrated as just the four of us, at home), there was no negative talk, no shaming, no dealing with people’s issues (other than my 8yo’s “OMG there’s fat on my meat and it’s gross and slimy and *gag*, but that’s a texture hangup she was born with, so it gets a pass)!

    I’m quite happy- I managed to enjoy my food thoroughly, eat to a comfortable point and stop and NOT have any negative/self-shaming thoughts about the whole thing. And my turkey rocked!

    We had a steam/butter roasted turkey (shove lots of butter under the breast skin then seal the pan up with foil and roast), which results in soggy skin, but OMG-to-die-for delicious meat. With it we had mashed sweet potatoes (with butter, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, whipped until light and fluffy then baked again), sauteed green beans with pepper, garlic and onion, oven roasted broccoli, gravy (out of a jar, I so cannot make gravy), King’s Hawaiian dinner rolls, Ocean Spray canned whole berry cranberry sauce, homemade pumpkin bread, cherry pie, pumpkin pie, Dutch apple pie and lemon bars.

    Everything turned out really good, and we had enough leftovers that I haven’t cooked since I pulled the last dish out of the oven around 2pm yesterday, we’ve just been munching leftovers since then!! Granted, there were some other leftovers in the fridge as well, and we’ve went through a chunk of those, but still…..

    We even had pie for breakfast today. There is something so decadent and fun about that, even if it’s probably healthier than half the breakfast foods out there!!!

  102. But turkey on Thanksgiving is permissible.

    Yes. In my childhood, it was the only feast of the year that joined everyone in my family: it was essentially secular, it could be celebrated as a harvest festival, and the plethora of dishes allowed accommodation of all sorts of dietary restrictions. So my only memories of both my mother’s and father’s families sitting at the same table are of Thanksgivings, and I thus hold it in greater fondness than I might have done otherwise.

    But there’s also a part of me that wonders, just why was it that my mother’s family, save myself, was never invited to Sukkot? And why did we never invent our own feast? Yes. Well. I think I know the answers, and none of them are very pleasant. I suspect it was the social pressure to celebrate the day, that made those fond memories of mine possible.

    I think I’ve had one too many beers tonight, too.

  103. “Christmas soon (what do Americans eat for Christmas? is it Turkey again?)”

    Growing up, we would have ham for Christmas dinner, then on New Year’s Day, my dad would make a bean soup with the ham bone. I learned years after he passed away that in the South, where he grew up, that bean soup was a good luck gesture.

  104. “In fact, that’s why my mom’s cooking always resembled the diet options- they keep kosher, so if they make turkey, potatoes with butter and cream are out of the question.”

    Oh, no diet potatoes — Earth Balance margarine and Tofutti Sour Supreme (soy sour cream), both are kosher!

  105. I learned years after he passed away that in the South, where he grew up, that bean soup was a good luck gesture.

    Some members of my family insist that not just any bean will do, it’s got to be black-eyed peas.

    The difficult to accomplish and quite baffling New Year’s day good-luck gesture is the one where you must not leave the house until a visitor, who is a man, is not red-headed, and is carrying butter, enters.

  106. “The difficult to accomplish and quite baffling New Year’s day good-luck gesture is the one where you must not leave the house until a visitor, who is a man, is not red-headed, and is carrying butter, enters.”

    You know, if I were a red-headed man in the South, I could probably make a nice wad of cash and gifts under the table fulfilling this need. I would rent myself out, and my only investments would be gas money and a stick of butter.

  107. Had a fairly pleasant time at our family dinner although as is often the case, people made extraordinary amounts of food. The food itself wasn’t the problem, just that it took so long to prepare it and clean up afterward that the hosts weren’t able to enjoy the camaraderie. We ended up eating a lot later than we figured because of that so people had to leave before we could get tired of each others’ company. These are my sister’s in-laws, descendants of restaurant folk who grew up in poverty so it’s difficult to find a solution. The food was indeed tasty and we do love each other but I long for more time together.

  108. He’s got to not be red-headed. It is bad luck if the first person through the door in the new year is red-headed. Or a woman. The trick is to have some non-redheaded male leave the house just before midnight (possibly to go out and buy some butter) and then come back just after. Woe betide you if you forget, though, since having somebody leave before somebody comes in on New Year’s day is bad luck. And of course one forgets, because none of these non-redheaded men are sober enough or superstitious enough to want to step outside and miss the countdown.

    You can make it easy for many of your guests, though, by giving them pats of butter as party favours. Or maybe not, as the butter-bearing non-red-head is supposed to knock, and you don’t get the luck if he just lets himself in.

    These things are very complicated.

  109. You’re in deep trouble, Snarky.

    But I am, too — mine is a teatotaller, and as everyone knows, pookas hate teatotallers and people with long noses, and pookas steal car-keys and other small vital objects from households including people that they hate. Because of this I must badger my wife into taking a sip of champagne or whatever, at least once a year. It’s for her own protection.

  110. “Oh. I’ve no idea if the red-headed butter-bearing thing is a Southernism.”

    I’m originally from Montreal & grew up with the same custom; maybe it’s Southern by way of being an Acadian /Cajun thing?

    “(And then he tries to make up for annoying her all over again by chatting with Grandma about The Young and The Restless, which he studies up on before major holidays to keep Gram pacified, chatting about Victor as if he were one of the relative who just couldn’t make it to dinner this year.) ”

    LOL

  111. That dark-haired first visitor (AKA the first-foot) thing is an old British tradition. Wikipedia has an entry for it, if you’re interested.

    My Mum always, always, ALWAYS makes stuffing with ground-pork breakfast sausage, plus celery, onions, herbs, a beaten egg, some melted butter, broth, seasonings, and bread cubes. It’s delicious, but there’s never a deviation. I swear, the bit of German ancestry she has comes out full-force in her cookery, because THERE’S NEVER A DEVIATION IN ANYTHING EVER ACHTUNG!

    As for me, I’ve done fantastic stuffings with apples, cranberries, pecans, mushrooms, and lots of other fabbo things. Lovely!

    I didn’t feel one bit of guilt about anything I ate this holiday, and if it helps anyone else to avoid it, my former naturopath decreed that pumpkin pie counts as a serving of vegetable! :)

  112. @Starwatcher – apparently if you go to gravatar.com you can upload whatever picture you want and it will turn it into your avatar. I haven’t quite got it right myself yet, but I understand that’s the idea. I’m trying to get the same pic I use on LJ as well!

  113. Lola,

    “(And then he tries to make up for annoying her all over again by chatting with Grandma about The Young and The Restless, which he studies up on before major holidays to keep Gram pacified, chatting about Victor as if he were one of the relative who just couldn’t make it to dinner this year.) ”

    The first time he did this, it was a little unsettling–enough so that my brother gave my hand a squeeze under the table. My brother is Baltimore SWAT, and given that he drives tanks on city streets, climbs down the side of hospitals, and otherwise sees some CRAZY shit on a regular basis, I always have a weird and very particular swell of embarrassment and pride when our family dinner is enough to make him put on his WTF-face.

    For a while, my dad’s grave opening line to that convo was a way for my brother and I to point out bizarre behaviors and befuddling non-sequitors. Like, if someone were to drop in right now with some earnest calorie-counting tips, it would be a time for us to say: “Doris. . .I’m worried about our boy Victor. . .and will that Phyllis EVER get a break?”*

    *Yes. Gram is only interested in the nefarious characters. Which is why she would rather talk ABOUT them than TO the table of real-life teachers, police, builders, librarians, etc., she’s actually sitting with.

  114. I have a diet and beauty tip for Cosmo- skipping guilt this holiday season will take years off your face and make you lighter than air- like a ballerina!

    Guilt= feeling bad about something YOU ALREADY did. Fuck that- own your choices. If you want to not eat seconds then you get to say, “sorry don’t try and guilt me mom, its a nice pie and all, but I’m all set!” If you want to eat 4 pieces of pie and then slather it with whipped cream, good for you, provided you don’t serve it up with guilt.

    Its so frustrating that this is how we think- that somehow we are helpless in the face of foods, that we’re the little sidekick who gets captured by BAD FOOD, and are helpless, and all we can do is blame ourselves….if only we’d been STRONGER this time around.

    I was at a mostly non shaming thanksgiving but there was a lot of diet talk from my hostess and her daughter about how they could indulge today and then back to the gym and the diet tomorrow, and couldn’t you tell how much weight they’d lost, etc etc…and I felt really conflicted about it, because I like the idea that things shouldn’t be impossible to say at the dinner table- I’d like to live in a world where we can talk about “sensitive things” right out in the open, but at the same time, there was that attitude that today was a relaxation of their usual strict rules….le sigh.

    Also I observed a picky kid who was being held hostage to his dinner, and things were being put on his plate and gravy just poured into an area where it touched the mashed potatoes so he didn’t want to try either and the extreme war of wills over the green bean and I thought, “if I have kids I think my rule will be they don’t get something that no one else is getting, until they buy it themselves, but I will not force food on my children, making green beans some horrible battlefield. I will call them to the table, they will have to sit with us till dinner is over, and then if they eat nothing or only eat turkey, that’s their problem.” It was so clear that this was a fight he and his mom did every night, and I completely remember if from my childhood, and I just thought, “my god this isn’t fun for anyone. All this and he only ends up eating 2 green beans? Someday he’s going to think of greenbeans as this grim healthy necessity he has to cram down his throat so he doesn’t get rickets or whatever, instead of a delicious craveable food in its own right. ” How much of our culture’s pain and guilt comes from that early horrible experience of being pushed into a chair and told to eat veggies because they’re good in that same horrible grown-up tone that told you to take a nap when you weren’t tired, or that this shot wouldn’t hurt “at all”? No wonder this country has an unhealthy food issue.

  115. FYI, as a lifelong Southern girl (albeit mid-upper South), I’ve never heard of the non-red-headed butter-bearing male visitor thing. Having black-eyed peas, collard greens, and hog jowls for New Year’s supper, OTOH, is a classic.

  116. The traditional way to prepare collards is to boil them for several hours, with pork. (This is a good way to use the hog jowls without actually having to eat them. Incidentally, the time my Muslim cousins came for Christmas, watching my multitudes of rural Southern relatives try to figure out ways to cook things without pork was pretty entertaining.)

    The way I usually prepare them is, after washing them really thoroughly (collards are often grown in somewhat sandy soil, and have a tendency to collect large amounts of grit), I remove the big center rib, chop or tear the rest pretty coarsely (pieces about the size of a dollar bill), and steam until tender. This can take awhile, as collards get pretty tough. Once they’re at a consistency that I wouldn’t mind eating, I saute them in a little olive oil, with a bit of salt and pepper, just until they dry out some. Also, if you’re starting with raw rather than frozen, you’ll want to get a lot more than you think you’ll need, because they cook down quite a bit.

  117. “where food was a gift to be shared freely rather than a punishment/reward to be doled out with an eyedropper and a lecture. I like Thanksgiving my way better than Cosmo’s.”

    Good quote. Will remember that one.

    Hx

  118. A few days late but our Thanksgiving guest said, as she went back for seconds, “It’s like a gift from God’s hands straight to my stomach.” It was a guilt-free and wine-full holiday!

  119. Oh, and against my better judgment, I gave Cosmo my eyeballs. Subbing white meat for dark? Aside from the fact that most white meat tastes like sawdust to me unless the preparer really knows what sie is doing, does anyone actually eat white meat without putting gravy on it?

    Someone should tell Cosmo that the dark meat has all the damned vitamins and shit. Arrrgh. And I say that as a confirmed white-meat lover.

    Here’s how you get palatable white meat on a turkey:

    1) Do NOT wet-brine the turkey. (Unless you like spongy meat, which is what you risk getting if you brine it for more than ten hours. Dry spice rubs — minus the salt — work much better.)

    2) Do NOT rub salt on the inside before you stuff it. (For some reason a lot of cooks, my mother included, got into the salt-rub habit sometime in the 1960s. Once she stopped doing that for health reasons, the birds suddenly got a lot moister.)

    3) Do drape bacon over the turkey breast while it cooks. (This helps to keep the breast meat from drying out and also imparts some of the bacon’s flavor. I recommend Hungarian bacon — seasoned mainly with garlic, pepper and salt — for this. Pull it off when it’s done — which will be about before the bird is ready — and serve as an appetizer or crumble and mix with your salad, green beans, mashed potatoes, or whatever else you think rates a bacon infusion. In the meantime, the residual grease left by the bacon on the now-exposed breast skin will help it brown nicely and the breast meat will stay moist.)

    Haven’t tried beer-can turkey yet, but I’m guessing a nice dry-yet-sweet white wine might work in a reservoir in the turkey’s interior. Throw in a few ginger slices as well as some shallots and who knows what might happen?

  120. I’ve never done this brine or salt rub thing.

    For a plain turkey or roasting chicken, I just put a tent of aluminium foil over the breast to keep it moist, and take it off at the very end, just enough time so it browns. I do the bacon thing too, but sometimes don’t want to flavour it with bacon.

    You will find that the fold of skin over the hole where the neck met the bird’s body is loose, and starting there you can wiggle your whole hand in under, between meat and skin, making a hideous pocket which you may now fill with herbs, or pats of butter, or slices of ginger root, or onion, or garlic, or lemon wedges, or whatever takes your fancy. Things to add flavour and moisture and to make the top of your roast all weird and lumpy.

  121. My family claims that one of our relatives invented the black-eyed peas for good luck myth out of whole cloth. A some-number-of-times-great-uncle, or something. Supposedly, the basic legend is true that black-eyed peas were used for livestock fodder before the civil war, but said relative is the one who started telling people it was good luck to convince them to try black-eyed peas as food for humans. I don’t believe it for an instant, but I still eat black-eyed peas out of family pride, rather than a wish for good luck.

    My mom, mercifully, does not indulge in food-shaming on holidays. Especially not Thanksgiving. We are to be grateful for our food, not ashamed of it…at least once a year. Any other day of the year, though, seems to be fair game.

  122. “Do NOT Wet Brine the Turkey”. I never thought I’d read that sentence on this website. I’m wondering if it’s a spycode. Mmmnnn, I’m going to look for more. I bet all that previous lemur talk was evil spycodes too….oh wait, I took part in that too.

    Maybe I’m like Jason Bourne and I don’t even remember my training. I’m going to ransack my wardrobe and see if I’ve got 10 passports.

  123. This Thanksgiving I discovered two recipes that I am definitely making again. One was pureed squash with caramelized shallots, almond butter, and a little salt and pepper. So simple, but SO GOOD on toast for an appetizer. I am now putting almond butter in everything!

    The other recipe was a pecan-date pie that contained a cup of sugar, a cup of corn syrup, and a cup of dates. I was actually a bit worried that it would be too sweet, since some super-sweet things come out too cloying for me, but this was The Best Pecan Pie Ever.

  124. Thanks Kate, and I hope your Thanksgiving was great, too.

    Also, in that article, they actually suggest swapping green bean casserole for steamed vegetables… are they serious? In what universe can I think to myself, “I’m in the mood for a gooey, oniony casserole,” and get a plate of plain, steamed veggies, and then think, “Mmm, this is exactly what I wanted! Yay, I’m going to pig out on these veggies!”

  125. Marvelous. I was delighted to note at Thanksgiving this year that there was absolutely no omgbadcarbs talk. I think my family has finally figured out that bringing that stuff up when I’m around is just gonna lead to a throw down. A loving throw down, but nevertheless.

    Articles like the Cosmo one are always funny to me, since historically, Thanksgiving is probably the day of the year when I eat the least! That’s what it is to be vegan in a family which is…not. I’ll generally eat some mashed potatoes and a couple of slices of apple pie (if I can find a vegan one, which I did this year at Whole Foods). That’s it. And my stomach is grumbly and I wish I had more food, but I can’t cook because the kitchen is packed… yadda yadda yadda.

  126. I am late to this thread, but yeah, that article made me laugh. And I actually prepared a lot of those foods for Thanksgiving dinner. We had: honey-brined, slow-smoked turkey (5 hours on the grill). Absolutely to-die-for delicious, both the dark meat and white meat. Mashed potatoes, made with 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of half and half. Stuffing, made with (yes) sausage, onion, celery, fresh herbs, apples, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and bread crumbs. Sooo good. Scalloped corn, an old-fashioned casserole I learned from my mother, made with butter, milk, eggs, and crushed saltine crackers, then baked until it has a nice brown crust on top. A green salad with pan-roasted pears, toasted pecans, shaved parmigiana reggiano, romaine, watercress, and balsamic vinaigrette. And steamed broccoli in a garlic lemon browned butter. Our friends who joined us for dinner brought cranberry sauce made from scratch and a delicious apple pie. Which we ate with vanilla ice cream.

    It was a fabulous meal, and none of us felt guilty in the least about indulging because, hello, we don’t eat like this every day.

  127. My Thanksgiving consisted of a lot of “The Diet Starts Tomorrow” talk among my family, but honestly, I didn’t mind, because it’s easier than listening them talk about politics.

  128. It was a fabulous meal, and none of us felt guilty in the least about indulging because, hello, we don’t eat like this every day.

    Heh, I didn’t feel guilty and wouldn’t even if I DID eat like that every day (as it happens a number of the things on the ‘bad’ menu aren’t to my taste, but if they were, I’d eat ‘em whenever I damn well please, thankyouverymuch). Like Kate said, it’s my stomach.

  129. Ooo… Spellara… Scalloped corn. I thought my family was the only one that made it. I haven’t had it in years, mostly because I only see my family in the summer these days, when it’s too bleedin’ hot in the midwest to turn the oven on. Something tells me that’s on this week’s menu. Now to conjure an appropriate other dish…

    Late to the party here, too, but I went to my best friend’s family’s do because DH looked at me last week and said, “I have spent the last two weeks at work dealing with the world’s most impressive set of fully articulate yet truly incompetent dumb@$$es. If you love me and my sanity, you will just let me spend next week doing nothing but killing electronic monsters and drinking scotch.” So I did. (He’s feeling MUCH better and our bar bill was only one bottle of scotch. He’s a lightweight.)

    My family’s thanksgiving is rarely tainted with the Must Diet! Tomorrow! And This Food will KILL us! mentality — thank Ghu for farmer genes and memes. However, it’s really upper Midwestern (though missing the green bean casserole — my family thinks that’s foul) and our stuffing lacks sausage, our sweet potatoes are never marshmallowed (that’s what the maple syrup is for!!) and we have this kind of dangerous dish called Eaglebrand pudding that involves boiling a sealed can of sweetened, condensed milk…

    My friend’s family is southern, so I found their variations on stuffing (sweet, with raisins, cornbread, apples and stuff) and the lack of sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie… unsatisfying. (They’re a pecan pie family, and that just felt… odd.)

    What I found most interesting about it was how emotionally attached I am to my personal heritage dishes and how odd it felt to experience someone else’s personal heritage dishes but without the context, yet still experience the holiday dedicated to food without my own personal food cues. I’m NOT attached to my family (I live 1000 miles away from them on purpose, though I have no issues with them, mostly because I don’t live on top of them) and my friend’s family has all sorts of issues that make a couple hours in their house feel like walking on glass, but I didn’t realize how homesick for them I would feel after the fact. I wonder if that would have been true if they’d used recipes closer to the ones I am familiar with.

  130. This food BS is so damn sad. I would stab someone in the eye with a fork if they dared to try and take away my green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with brown sugar, or mashed potatoes.

    And the saddest part some person really did make themselves a cardboard Thanksgiving.

  131. Um, if MissPrism is still around and would like to gift me with either more information regarding her red currant meringue pie or the recipe (or one similar on the internet), I would be a very willing audience.

  132. As someone who:

    -has had green bean casserole (the Campbell’s/French’s recipe) at every Thanksgiving and most Christmases she can remember
    -once tried to make the casserole using jarred mushroom gravy when she lived in a country that had banned the import of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom
    -has tried every foodie’s effort ever to make an acceptably highbrow green bean casserole–oh, sorry, I mean “Oven-Baked Haricots Verts With Cream of California Cèpe Mushrooms and Crispy Shallots”
    -got hungry while reading this thread, went looking for the leftover casserole and, upon finding it was gone, ate a slice of delicious yet strangely disappointing carrot cake instead,

    I can tell you with great certainty that there is NO SUBSTITUTE for [your nostalgic or much-craved dish of choice]. Particularly not for that nastily delicious substance known as green bean casserole–and I say that as someone who loves green beans pretty much any way I can get them to include the “virtuous” steamed version! People do not crave “something sort of like” what they remember; they crave the the things that go along with the the dish *exactly as they remember it*–the comfort and the sense-memories and the nutrients and the mouthfeel and the family-feeling… and possibly also a hit of whatever ingredient it was that got Cream of Mushroom banned in the EU ;)

    Also, I’m really offended at the thought of running into the kitchen and stealing helpings of ingredients before they make it into finished dishes. This presumes that either A) you are making the meal you are not allowed to eat, i.e. the Serve Others, Not Yourself thing talked about upthread or B) you are the rudest person who ever lived and do not deserve to have meals made for you in the first place. It’s incredibly insulting to the cook even to *salt* a dish before you’ve tasted it, much less to change/reject a recipe midstream. People with *manners* eat a bite for politeness’ sake/make up BS about their allergies/feed their plate to the dog, and then get takeout afterward. Duh.

  133. Do drape bacon over the turkey breast while it cooks.
    I do this with roast chicken as well – it is v. nice, but take it off about half an hour before the chicken finishes roasting to let the skin brown.

    I am reliably informed that cooking a chicken upside down (i.e. with the breast at the bottom) keeps the white meat moist. Haven’t tried it yet myself.

  134. I know this has already been said, but I’d like to second it: in my opinion, the worst thing about these articles is that eating IS a moral issue in many ways. Food is rife with ethical dilemmas: should we eat meat, while it may cause suffering to animals? Should we eat meat, while the CO2 emissions from meat-based diet are so much greater than those from vegetable-based diet? Who produces our food? How well do they get paid? Can they organize themselves? Should we favour organic food? Is GMO food okay?

    A recent study shows that food may cause as much as half of our CO2 omissions. Thus food may be, in many ways, one of the biggest dilemmas of our time. Or one of the most pressing, time-wise, anyway. We’d better figure out how to feed the people and keep the planet inhabitable, all at the same time, and we’d better figure that out soon.

    When food is so tied with ethics, it BLOWS MY MIND that women’s magazines try to assign moral values to calories and low-fat and high-fat versions of the same food…! I mean, really! I lack the words to express my disgust. Whether or not to eat meat, that’s an ethical question. Whether or not to buy Fair Trade or organic, that’s an ethical question too. We don’t need to agree on the answers, but I think few will deny than answering those questions is a matter of ethics at least to some extent. Whether to consume 2000 or 3000 or 4000 calories on Thanksgiving – not an ethical question. Personal choice. Whether to have low-fat or full-fat dish? Personal preference.

    I’m afraid that such articles will cause a knee-jerk reaction in otherwise considerate people, making them go: “Sod it, there’s nothing ethical about food, its all a matter of personal preference!” It’s an understandable reaction, but an unfortunate one, too. I know this blog entry was not trying to state that, but I’ve heard it IRL.

    And what makes it worse for me is I prefer the “virtuous” low-fat versions. Articles like this give me a twisted kind of reverse guilt: I’m almost ashamed that I consistently DO like the light option! But that is truly a personal preference, nothing to do with virtue.

  135. That’s an interesting point, Pauline. Something like what you’re getting at is a point I’ve tried — and so far, failed — to make articulately to many acquaintances who worship Michael Pollan and the like.

    Basically, these people confuse, on the one hand, serious, society-wide food-related ethical questions like GMOs and industrial meat production, and on the other, a desire for personal physical “health” (read: thin! glowingly beautiful! eternally young! avoiding the “obesity epidemic”!).

    They have a kind of neo-Calvinism/neo-Puritanism in which they believe that what you see on the outside (fat or thin, wholesomely beautiful like a Kashi cereal box or less so) is a representation of one’s food choices, and, therefore, to them, ethics. (Because for them, ALL food choices, not just some, are fraught with moralistic implications.)

    When I read your comment, I realized I’m one of the people who sometimes gets impatient with _any_ moral message regarding food because the messengers usually get on my nerves.

    Instead of “is industrial agriculture setting us up for environmental disaster” — a serious point — the issue is so often posed as “industrial agriculture is making us faaaaaaaat!” I think some proponents deliberately pitch it that way, knowing that an appeal to vanity and a different flavor of discerning consumerism will get more attention.

  136. I can’t believe I read the whole article, but having done so I have to point out that those pathetic idiots at Cosmo don’t even know what gravy *is*! The liquid that you pour out of the turkey roasting pan is not “gravy,” it is “pan drippings.” They are extremely concentrated and flavorful and are an essential component of gravy, but they’re small in quantity and would barely cover the turkey on the first two or three plates.

    Here’s how you make turkey gravy: Make a roux with flour and butter or turkey fat, add turkey or chicken broth and whisk over medium heat until it thickens, and then pour in the defatted pan drippings. Add salt, pepper, and herbs to taste. It’s that simple. (Some people also add milk or cream, but I only do that if I’m making gravy for pot pie.) My mother used to make the gravy right in the turkey pan, but I can’t do that because we usually cook our turkey on a charcoal grill, so the drippings are very smoky and have to be used in moderation.

    Also, “beg Grandma” to make you lowfat mashed potatoes? If Grandma is still cooking Thanksgiving dinner, she has better things to do. In our family, however, Grandma generally plays with the grandchildren while the adult children share the cooking. If you asked me really nicely, I might consider saving you a plain boiled potato to mash for yourself with your own fat-free chicken broth, but there’s no way I’m making you a separate dish of mashed potatoes. Feel free to eat the kids’ plain green beans, though, instead of the ones seasoned with olive oil, garlic, parsley, and lemon zest.

  137. “Do NOT Wet Brine the Turkey”. I never thought I’d read that sentence on this website. I’m wondering if it’s a spycode. Mmmnnn, I’m going to look for more. I bet all that previous lemur talk was evil spycodes too….oh wait, I took part in that too.

    Maybe I’m like Jason Bourne and I don’t even remember my training. I’m going to ransack my wardrobe and see if I’ve got 10 passports.

    This is both hilarious and timely, as Jason Bourne (if that’s his real name) is keeping me company today while I actively work to stop being sick.

  138. I find framing food in terms of what I “should” be doing/eating/wanting to be extremely offputting, and there’s SO MUCH of it. I do eat locally – when I can, and how I can, but lots of the stuff I love isn’t available locally, and I’m not moving across the world so I can get a consistent supply of local pomegranates. It triggers a lot of the diet anxiety for me. How do I “make up for it” if I’m bad? Do I skip a meal, or just eat local carrots for a day or two? What if I feel better when I eat a lot of different kinds of protein – fish, meat, soybean? What if I really, really crave/love foods that are not local and that I can’t recreate on my own?

    There’s also a weird fetishization of other cultures I find creepy. Country X is so lucky because they eat everything fresh/local! Never mind that they’re poverty stricken! Their reduced incidence of cancer, despite their overall earlier demise, is totally a sign of how evil our own diets are, and cancer is absolutely an indicator of moral failure!

    Never mind the revised history of food – I wish everyone had the opportunity to read about how horrifying many of the foods were 100 or 200 years ago. It wasn’t all fresh Jersey milk and steaming loaves of bread. In fact, unless you owned the cow and ground the meal yourself, there was a fair chance that you were eating/drinking some unpleasant substances. There was a lot of fraud, and a lot of very questionable food practices. Pro tip: formaldehyde keeps your milk from going off!

    I had sushi and pomegranates and raspberry gelatto for Thanksgiving. I was going to have stuffing as well, but didn’t feel like making it.

  139. What’s next Cosmo, a Christmas/Hanukah/(insert holiday I am forgetting here) article about how to skirt around gift-giving? Unless I’m mistaken, Thanksgiving is ABOUT EATING, and specifically, about eating things in quantities that you don’t have every day! It’s a feasting holiday! You can’t avoid eating special, often rich food and still be considered to be celebrating. (Even if you don’t have the typical turkey feast with family, people usually have something they consider special if they choose to acknowledge the day).

  140. Snarkysmachine – Last time I was in Morocco I had a hand to hand combat standoff in a small and badly tiled bathroom with Jason Bourne, and he came off limping, let me tell you. This all points to me having had special secret training that I’m not consciously aware of. I also taught Bruce Lee his famous One Inch Punch, and I’ve no martial arts skills, yet mysteriously had access to the inner sanctum of Jeet Kune Do all in my mind.
    What is fiendishly clever is that I’ve maintained the physique of a a very unfit person with no balance, just to throw people off the scent.

  141. @ Pauline – Thanks so much for bring that up. I get so frustrated with people in the FA movement who just keep insisting that “food is not a moral issue.” It’s a huge moral issue, just not in the way that fatphobic discourse frames it.

  142. OOOOH my favorite food-related topics (hint: not the OMGDEATHFATZ!)!

    “How do I “make up for it” if I’m bad? Do I skip a meal, or just eat local carrots for a day or two? ”

    You know, I think this is a good point. My suspicion, from seeing it in myself, is that this whole movement towards eating more locally, more ethically, is awesome, but that you do tend to sublimate those “good food/bad food” diet messages into this other place. Now, it could be argued, because I argue this with myself, that this is an ok thing to guilt oneself about. But on the other hand, I’ve found myself getting just as obsessive about it as I was about counting calories. Sooo….I have to say, maybe not so healthy. The way I try to approach it is to (unlike Pollan et al regreattably) consider one’s own situation. How much can you afford to eat locally? How much organic produce can you afford/is available? Is some organic produce better than others (i.e., has less pesticide residue)? Can I eat non-organic, non-locally raised foods ethically (for example, maybe check out the seafood watch list)?

    And that brings me to what I think the MOST important things to look at are. Not, as some would have it, simply “eat local,” or “eat plants mostly” or even “try to eat as much organic as possible,” but “why can people not access the very best, most ethical foods they can? And well, that’s a whoooole ‘nother thing, isn’t it? Then we get into our food system, and how it’s broken, and how food is distributed, and race, and class, and poverty, and all kinds of really hard stuff. But you know “eat food, mostly plants” is easier to remember.

  143. Oh and edit — and how food is produced, and how those production practices mean that the food that’s cheap is the food that is (generally) most ethically dubious.

  144. Hmm. I’d say that there are moral issues surrounding food, rather than food itself being one. I know that sounds dodgy and semantic, but the food in itself is not good or evil. It does not sin. Eating the apple does not make you fall from grace.

    Work isn’t a moral issue either – you are not a bad person if you fail to adhere to Puritan standards of the work ethic. Fat isn’t a moral issue. Fat is morally inert, except as a philosophical exercise. (If you lol the fat, does not the fat also lol you?)

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t moral issues that concern work and fat and food and every other thing in our lives – but that substance, in and of itself, is not what it’s all about. Even something as clearly connected to food as meat-eating is not, generally speaking, about the food in itself.

  145. @Ethyl

    Good points, and I think it is complicated. Not just what can you afford or not afford, but what does it affect in other areas of your life and how do you balance a zillion possibly competing ethical considerations?

    I don’t think everyone can be passionate about *every* ethical issue, because there’s too much. You’d go insane. And between buying only local produce and never buying anything made in China and keeping abreast of which companies are environmentally unfriendly or anti-feminist or discriminate religiously or barbecue kittens, half your life would be dedicated to figuring out what you could and couldn’t buy. So you do the best you can on the things you see as most important, and cut yourself some slack.

    Kinda like everything else in life, I think. Especially for me personally because I’m good at stressing myself out. Which is not to say that my mental health is more important than, say, the lives of immigrant workers or Bangladesh not being underwater. It’s just to say that I can break myself and still not make as much of a difference as I think I should, so I make the difference I can and try to let the rest go.

    Also, I don’t think guilt is usually productive. One of the useful concepts I got from going to an evangelical church was one Sunday school lesson on a distinction between “guilt” and “conviction.” Conviction is even less nice as a word, but the concept as it was explained to me is useful. Guilt, the bad kind, doesn’t really spur action. It’s just negativity and the urge to beat up on yourself (usually metaphorically). The good kind, which that particular Sunday school teacher called conviction, leads to action–to stopping a harmful behavior or trying to make right or make amends for something you screwed up. So, wallowing bad, trying to fix your mistakes or to do the right thing, good.

  146. This: food that’s cheap is the food that is (generally) most ethically dubious.

    makes me very uncomfortable, especially without qualifiers. Partly it’s because cheap is pretty much what I can afford, although I splurge when I can, and I’m very aware that I am super-fortunate to be able to do that much.

    And since there’s a fuckton of issues around food, sweeping generalizations are bound to need some context. Ethically dubious how? To whom? To those that are trying to feed their families from a very limited income, or off food stamps, cheap food can be a godsend – literally, even a lifesaver. There’s some serious issues around some upper-crust foods that far outstrip the cheap stuff. And then, of course, how we quantify cheap is interesting, too. Cheap subsidized? Cheap homegrown? (Ha!) Cheap wonderbread vs. cheap cabbages vs. cheap cuts of meat?

    I wish I could make a cogent argument other than “that makes me feel really bad about being semi-pseudo poor!”, which I guess could sort of be like white guilt – not really productive, but derailing and irritating simultaneously. Hmm. I’ll have to think about that one.

  147. @Kellyk and Ethyl:

    Miss Conduct (the advice blogger) often bring up the jewish idea that it is not yours to finish the work, neither is it yours to set it aside, that while we shouldn’t let the enormity of the world’s ills make us idle, nor should do we need to take on ourselves the fullness of every task. In short, we must all do the best we can, as we see fit.

    I was a vegan for many years, and a veg before that although I currently also meat (although all my food is local, which is sort of a product of where I live).

    I tend to think of food consumption in terms of animal ethics and environmental impact and both are of grave concern to me, but I try to cut myself some slack because no matter how superhuman the effort, I would surely come up lacking in some area.

    The thing that keeps me able to care and able to dedicate myself to causes that I think better the world is my attention to my own well-being, mentally as well as physically, and sometimes that means making some compromised choices. It’s not perfect, but in order to be the best person I can be, I have to not beat myself up when my ideals aren’t entirely matched by my performance at life.

  148. Anita: One thing I feel, in a vague and handwavy way, is that rich people have a sort of responsibility to buy eg local non-exploitatively-produced food to *create a market* so that the prices can come down a bit. Here, local food is expensive, and they can’t reduce the prices unless the economy of scale gets involved because farmers and bakers and so on have to eat *too*. Poor people deserve to eat too, and it’s tough enough being not-rich without ALSO trying to put in world-altering work which rich people could do much more easily.

    We buy as ethically as we can afford, which means we’ve moved from local cooperative market to fair trade supermarket with the recession, and we’ll be moving down the middle-class-food-ethics ladder again the longer the recession lasts.

    Of course, I also remember being actually poor and so sometimes splurge on unethical rich-people treats to remind myself that I’m not that poor any more. That one’s about mental health. Which is also very important.

  149. Heh, I didn’t feel guilty and wouldn’t even if I DID eat like that every day (as it happens a number of the things on the ‘bad’ menu aren’t to my taste, but if they were, I’d eat ‘em whenever I damn well please, thankyouverymuch). Like Kate said, it’s my stomach.

    Right on, Cassi! I didn’t mean that I would normally feel guilt even if I did eat like every day was Thanksgiving — just that eating that kind of a meal every day would make me feel pretty damn crappy. Too many carbs, too much insanely rich food. Others may feel differently, of course. But yep, if I feel like eating that stuff, I’m damn well going to eat it.

  150. And since there’s a fuckton of issues around food, sweeping generalizations are bound to need some context. Ethically dubious how? To whom? To those that are trying to feed their families from a very limited income, or off food stamps, cheap food can be a godsend – literally, even a lifesaver. There’s some serious issues around some upper-crust foods that far outstrip the cheap stuff. And then, of course, how we quantify cheap is interesting, too. Cheap subsidized? Cheap homegrown? (Ha!) Cheap wonderbread vs. cheap cabbages vs. cheap cuts of meat?

    I run into all kinds of people harping about “cheap food” living in the land of the trustifarian. Well, I did the eat for $4 bucks a day, and let me tell you, there is NO way one can get “healthy” foods with that kind of budget, and while access of healthy food is imperative, framing as “teh po folks are too ignorant to know good foods.” is so incredibly problematic.

    I agree with what you stated and I tend to crotch froth when I read people talking this way, and usually cannot make decent arguments in responses either.

    Unless, “Shut the fuck up.” has suddenly become a nuanced response.

  151. Rice and beans (or other grains) are decently healthy and can be bought in bulk for far less than $4/day (even organic!). Some people don’t like rice and beans, some people don’t know how to cook them, but there are ways people can eat cheaply and within their convictions. It is cultural though–I am from a culture where it is normal to eat rice and beans everyday, and it can be made into a simple routine even when working too hard on too little with too little time.

    I do see why people with stressful lives would want something a little more craving-fulfilling. If your life is hard, and french fries give you a little lift in your long day, no one has the right to judge you for that.

  152. Oooh. French fries.

    My sister used to work at an upscale restaurant that had “pommes frites” on the appetizer menu — a big plate of fresh french fries tossed in white truffle oil. Even traditionally “low-end” foods can be made expensive. (And even more addictive than normal fries.)

  153. Anna —

    Dry rice and beans are indeed cheap, but the fuel, time and cookware to make them edible are not.

    See Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. She shares your idea about beans and rice, and soon finds she can’t pull it off.

  154. @Snarkys and Anita:

    I apologize if my impromptu word choice was offensive, I didn’t mean it that way.

    My main point in my original comment was that people DO have to eat too, and that people complaining about how we should all eat locally tend to not realize that. As for my comment about most cheap food being produced unethically, well, I’m definitely not trying to shame anyone, because we have to make the choices we have to make, but it is a fact that the reasons our food is so cheap in the US are because of extremely exploitative labor practices, cruelty to animals, and bad environmental practices. If you’re unaware of the scale of the issues, I’ll be happy to go find some links and references and stuff, but off the top of my head, there was a piece on NPR recently, maybe on the Splendid Table, about a book that just came out dealing with the cheap food in this country and the problems with it. There was also a piece recently on All Things Considered maybe about slavery in farming in Florida.

  155. @ Snarkys:
    “framing as “teh po folks are too ignorant to know good foods.” is so incredibly problematic.”

    I didn’t say that.

  156. I am, in fact, very aware of the scale of the issues, thank you very much, but these are not about cheap food vs. expensive food per se.

    Exploitative labor practices, cruelty to animals, and bad environmental practices aren’t intrinsic to cheap food, though. I can spend $4.50/dozen eggs at the grocery store for eggs that, despite the labels of free range, vegetarian, and cage free, have minimal or no improvement in the quality of life for the hens, equally horrifying working conditions, and lakes of chicken manure. Some of the very organic pesticides used on very expensive crops are surprisingly toxic. The practice of practically scorching the earth in large scale farming (especially organic, but also conventional) to prevent any weed emergence is very damaging to the soil.

    It would be disingenuous to pretend that money has no place in these conversations – we definitely need to talk about the pressures on farmers and consumers – but to boil all this down to “cheap food is the problem” is very sketchy.

    For one thing, it contributes to the pass being given to markets that are expensive. Sure, every so often PETA will rail against how *wrong* it is to kill whales. Fortunately, Americans think of whale meat as being fat and gross, so it’s easy to abstain from whale eating. But there’s plenty of upper-crust foods that have all the problems of cheap food, with additional bonuses like extreme overfishing, or animal cruelty deluxe edition.

    For another, it focuses attention on people who eat the cheap food in question, which does very much focus on those of us who are poorer. (I am only pseudo-poor, so I’m a little leary of including myself in this category.) You think Bill Gates eats many $.89 cabbages? You think he considers the difference between a can of tuna ($1.29) and a can of sardines ($1.09 on sale, but the can’s smaller and you need more of them but they might possibly be less ecologically harmful) when he makes his dining choices? Do you think he wastes two seconds thinking about the price per pound difference between organic and non-organic potatoes? So yeah, focusing on cheap food does disproportionately place the blame on poor people. If only they weren’t so poor! Or didn’t spend so much on other crap, like cheap clothes! Except they shouldn’t be buying cheap clothes either – don’t they know about sweatshops? All poor people should be nude all the time.

    I’m not saying that you, personally, believe this, but that talking about the issue this way does call on those tropes. These are cultural stories, driven deep into the American psyche somewhere down between “you can be anything you want to when you grow up” and “work hard and pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” So even though you didn’t say “why don’t the poor do better,” some of us are going to hear that anyway, because that’s what that kind of framing taps into. So let’s absolutely talk about animal cruelty, labor, poverty, food access, environmental impacts, farmers, the Green revolution, the difficulties of finding/owning land, global seed companies, hunger, expensive faux cookie diets, trying to force Nature to conform to a free market economics model, and whatever else. But let’s not pretend that if we just paid a bunch more, we’d magically solve all these problems.

  157. Anita wrote:

    Exploitative labor practices, cruelty to animals, and bad environmental practices aren’t intrinsic to cheap food, though. I can spend $4.50/dozen eggs at the grocery store for eggs that, despite the labels of free range, vegetarian, and cage free, have minimal or no improvement in the quality of life for the hens, equally horrifying working conditions, and lakes of chicken manure.

    This is kinda depressing to me. I usually go for eggs with all those labels (though I don’t think they cost $4.50), thinking it’s better for the animals. I guess I’d be better off hitting the Amish farmers’ market.

  158. Dry rice and beans are indeed cheap, but the fuel, time and cookware to make them edible are not.

    See Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. She shares your idea about beans and rice, and soon finds she can’t pull it off.

    Also, nothing wrong with rice or beans, but eating nothing but that every day doesn’t exactly make for a balanced diet. It’s the fruits, veggies, and dairy that get pricey, so I don’t think a diet of rice and beans meets the “cheap and healthy” criteria, especially when, as Grafton points out, any cooking has inherent expenses. If you’ve already got a decently stocked kitchen, those aren’t a big deal. But if you’re trying to live on $4 a day, you may not. (I think it was Vimes in Discworld who made the point that being poor is expensive—if you have the cash to buy a nice pair of boots, they last for years. If you have to buy the cheap ones, then after five years, you’ve spent more than the person who bought the expensive ones, and you *still* have wet feet.)

  159. @ Snarkys:
    “framing as “teh po folks are too ignorant to know good foods.” is so incredibly problematic.”

    I didn’t say that.

    I wasn’t speaking to you specifically, but an attitude of some working on food insecurity issues. Sorry about that!

  160. @KellyK – I think Vimes’ observation fits in with a whole lot of other truths – from being able to stock up on a good deal, if you have $ & space; to the lower rates on things for rich people; and that the richer you are, the more is given to you for free…
    Anyway, I’ve always heard this set of phenomenon called “Poverty Premium”.

  161. I usually go for eggs with all those labels (though I don’t think they cost $4.50), thinking it’s better for the animals. I guess I’d be better off hitting the Amish farmers’ market.

    Hate to be the bearer of bad news but it can’t be assumed (and if you’re not assuming, I apologize for assuming that you’re assuming!) that Amish-raised animals are being treated any better than non-Amish animals. They might be on a smaller scale and I think they probably wouldn’t be battery raised, but they may very well have all the antibiotics, monotonous diet and enclosed life (especially if they’re being raised for production of eggs to sell as opposed to a home flock).

    On the other hand, maybe you know specifically that someone at your Amish farmer’s market has a free-roaming flock of happy hens that eat scraps, grass and bugs. In which case, I am talking out my butt (although what I said might still apply to someone else pondering the question).

  162. Thanks, kristenc. I didn’t want to be the one to say it. I, too, assumed KellyK might know that the Amish farmers in her area treat their animals well, but in general I think there’s a misconception that all’s neat and dandy in the Amish world regarding things like compassion and progressiveness. Not really so. Amish people are people, and they’re farmers who want to make a profit like any other, and as far as I know they don’t hold any particularly enlightened views about animals.

  163. Hate to be the bearer of bad news but it can’t be assumed (and if you’re not assuming, I apologize for assuming that you’re assuming!) that Amish-raised animals are being treated any better than non-Amish animals.

    No problem assuming that I’m assuming. :) I was about half assuming and half speculating. So, I take it the only way to know for sure that chickens are raised humanely is to know who’s farming them and what the conditions are at that specific farm?

  164. KellyK — yep. I did live on beans, rice, onions, garlic, vitamin C tablets and a little olive oil for about two years, but I’m not sure it was exactly ‘healthy’ and I also did get fresh greens and meat from time to time.

    The Sam Vimes Boots Theory of Economics is definately in action — I already possessed two large cooking pots, the first month’s rent on a place with a kitchen, and enough spare to buy beans, rice and onions in 20 or 50 lb bags. I lived very very cheaply those years, but I had three times a normal month’s worth of expenses starting off.

    When Barbara Ehrenreich does her ‘can I survive on the low-wage jobs I can get if I start off with next to nothing and pretend to be a working-class woman with no more than a HS diploma?’ experiment she figures that she can save money by not having a car, which prevents her from going to thrift-stores, she can’t get cookware cheaply, her wage doesn’t allow her to save enough to get that stuff, or buy foods in bulk, she has a hard time affording housing with cooking facilities, she ends up eating a lot of over-priced and undernourishing pre-prepared packaged foods, like one can find in a 7-11 store.

  165. I take it the only way to know for sure that chickens are raised humanely is to know who’s farming them and what the conditions are at that specific farm? As far as I know, pretty much. Free range and cage-free mean very specific things legally, not what people often assume them to mean.

    On the other hand, people pretty reliably use “pastured” to mean that hens are actually given access to growing grass outside, although I don’t think there’s regulations concerning the use of the word on packaging. So maybe if you looked for “pastured”?

  166. she figures that she can save money by not having a car, which prevents her from going to thrift-stores, she can’t get cookware cheaply, her wage doesn’t allow her to save enough to get that stuff, or buy foods in bulk

    There was an interesting discussion at Apartment Therapy a while back about tiny houses. Initially the comments were all YAY TINY HOUSES BOO GLUTTONOUS AMERICAN LIVING, but then several people pointed out that in microsize houses you have no room for DIY, storing supplies in bulk for economy, cooking large batches of food or storing preserved food, recycling bins or storing items for re-use, and so on.

    It definitely made the scales fall from my eyes regarding the perception I had of people who live in dramatically small spaces as somehow more virtuous and slimmed-down (ha! fatphobia in language!) than the rest of us.

  167. Hehe. The frustration of visiting NYC, where space is more valuable than anything else and there’s a stunning array of great stuff set out with people’s garbage, wasted. But the space in your luggage is also at a premium so you have to leave it there…

  168. Grafton:
    That’s actually a venerable NYC tradition, leaving your old furniture and whatnot out in time for people to pick over it before the garbage trucks come. These days, the whole bedbug epidemic makes it no longer feasible. But there was some sense of thrift in it.

  169. “food that’s cheap is the food that is (generally) most ethically dubious. ”

    This is an interesting overgeneralisation, and I don’t like it’s logical counterpart, the assumption that people sometimes make that expensive food is less ethically dubious.

    Example – my favorite fish is Ahi. Which is both expensive and extremely ethically dubious. I would hate to think that people were walking around thinking there must not be any ethical considerations attached to it just because it’s over $25 a pound.

    Honestly this sounds like snobbery to me. There are ethical problems with foods that show up at all price points, and while I’d agree that the drive to keep production costs low does lead to some dubious farming practises, I think the real problem is generally a lack of concern for the wellbeing of animals manifesting as a willingness to engage in ethically dubious farming practises to cut cost. It’s the lack of concern for animal welfare that’s the ultimate cause, not the cost cutting. Fois gras production is pretty damn dubious too, and the reason there isn’t to cut costs.

  170. Just to add very quickly to what CassandraSays…erm…says. =) The Immokalee Tomato pickers scandal happening here in Florida is primarly regarding the bulk tomatoes that are sold to fast food chains. For example, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King have all agreed to pay a higher rate for their tomatoes so that the workers can have a living wage. Chipotle and Publix (a Florida supermarket chain) are the holdouts. Chipotle holds their meet products out as being better than others and charges more than twice as much as the other fast food chains mentioned for one meal. Publix is a mid-range store and is second to Whole Foods in my area. Basically, if I want to eat ethical tomatoes they’re on my Whopper.

  171. Sarah B – Isn’t McDonalds the parent company of Chipotle? Thus making that whole situation even odder.

    But yeah, this is one of the ongoing issues with, for example, the way organic as a classification works for food – it tells you nothing about how the people involved in the process are being treated. I can’t feel all that virtuous about buying my super fancy expensive organic strawberries if the people picking them may well have had to work a 10 hour shift with no breaks for below miniumum wage, you know?

  172. Starling:

    People do that here, too, it’s just much lower quality stuff, because the good stuff they can store in their garages and sell, and they have vehicles to move it around.

    But if you go to college campuses when the students are all moving out of the dorms for summer you see the same kind of outrageous waste of excellent stuff, for the same reason — no way to move it from here to the pawn shop without a lot of hassle, no place to store it. (Picking up the teevees, DVD players, bikes and mini-fridges they’ll abandon is a handy way to make some quick cash if you do have a vehicle to move that stuff.)

  173. Chipotle? Chipotle with all their stuff about ethical treatment of animals? Ouch.

    After doing a bit of reading about the situation in Florida, I e-mailed Chipotle & asked them to agree to the extra cent per pound CIW is asking for. Baby steps, right?

  174. Sarah B – Isn’t McDonalds the parent company of Chipotle? Thus making that whole situation even odder.

    They were, but they sold it off a couple of years ago.

    Chipotle also makes a big deal about their chicken and pork “with integrity,” but doesn’t talk so much about the beef. I just checked the website, and on that point, they’re like, “Uhhh, you know, we have to take the long view!” Meaning some of their beef is naturally raised now, and they’re planning for all of it to be eventually, but in the meantime…

  175. Yeah, I’d never looked into it before, but had definitely noticed every time I went in there that there are signs everywhere saying, “Our chicken is ethical!” and “Our pork is ethical!” and… nothing about the beef.

  176. In the UK, foods labelled “organic” have stricter standards of animal welfare than “free-range”, “freedom food” or the RSPCA mark. Obviously knowing the farm is better still, and I have other problems with “organic”, but if I’m picking up some eggs at the supermarket that’s what I’ll go for.

    Tonight, however, I’m working late and therefore eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon. Is there a more perfect stash-in-your-filing-cabinet foodstuff?

  177. “Our chicken is ethical!” and “Our pork is ethical!” and… nothing about the beef.

    You are obviously a critical thinker, one of the things that originally attracted me to your blog. That is a beautiful example of extrapolating information you have been given.

    When it comes to information fed to the consumer, it is crucial to be able to think critically and parse that information. I’ve been consciously watching out for messages and terminology in advertising lately and the realizations you come to are amazing.

  178. There was a lot to be said for living in the middle of nowhere, and getting my eggs from Pat down the road who had chickens. They always seemed like pretty happy chickens to me. Not, obviously, an option for anyone who does not live down the road from Pat. Seriously, though, the CSA in my hometown outside of Santa Fe (where I am visiting for a few months this winter) has good produce and ethical meat-and-egg farms. When I was a member, all the CSA members were invited to a picnic/work party at the farms twice a year, so you got to see first-hand what you were getting.

    But. If you don’t have $10 a pound for righteous meat, or $4 a carton for righteous eggs, or $30 a week for random seasonal produce, or a kitchen large enough to store and cook said produce, or the resources to track down recipes for some of that produce, or the leisure in which to cook it, or the money to live in my expensive little community in the first place, you are pretty much SOL. Food ethics are not entirely the privilege of the rich, but they aren’t cheap, either.

  179. Quite true, Starling. We are all free to make those choices. I’m just saying those sorts of decisions should be based on solid factual information, not deception and not deliberate attempts to mislead. I’d bet my paycheck that if customers of Chipotle could be interviewed, those that believed the pork and chicken products to be “ethical” would more often than not have a similar expectation regarding the beef, since the purpose of the advertising that stresses ethics is to lead consumers who don’t think critically to that conclusion. That is what makes Kate’s observation so impressive.

  180. Shoutabysss: No, you’re right there. I just was musing on the ways that I had an easier time finding out about my food because I had all the benefits of an upper-middle-class yuppie intellectual living outside the People’s Republic of Santa Fe. In New York, I can take someone else’s word for it, but that’s not a great idea when dealing with large companies, and that’s what people have to do when they can’t go to Pat’s.

  181. My mantra has become “it’s only cake [or bread, or pizza, or crips, or whatever- you get the idea], it’s not genocide” as coined on here a while back. I’m often suprised by how many people seem stunned by this, as if I’ve told them an amazing secret!

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