The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts is an easy drive of 40 miles from home in Albany, New York, and at Thanksgiving time, like many other Americans, Norman Rockwell’s “Thanksgiving Picture” comes into mind.
Rockwell painted the four essential human rights that President Roosevelt, in his State of the Union address to Congress on January 6, 1941 identified as universal, as a world war was on the horizon: freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom of worship, and freedom from want.
It’s been nearly a decade that the curators at the Art Institute of Chicago mounted an extraordinary art exhibit, Art and Appetite, American Painting, Culture and Cuisine, with paintings on loan from more than 25 collections throughout the United States. Curator Judith A. Barter noted that Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want was a “Thanksgiving Picture” which “made the turkey and its holiday a symbol of American values, freedom, and peace.”
Celebrating Thanksgiving each year for the past seven decades for me has meant appreciating our freedoms as Americans and a roasted turkey on the dinner table. But for the past dozen years, since this website/blog went live, this city dweller has taken extra care to know where the Thanksgiving turkey comes from! And I’ve even begun to question whether to forego the turkey and substitute, perhaps, a delicious pumpkin and kale (or spinach) lasagna.
But like past Thanksgiving celebrations, in 2022, we’ve opted for turkey even after all these years. Nonetheless, this home cook has long been persuaded by Michael Pollan’s answer, in his often humorous, Food Rules, to one of the major questions of life, What should I eat? Pollan’s succinct answer: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. After the holiday, our Thanksgiving turkey is transformed into a giant pot-full of turkey soup, with lots of veggies and beans, with delicious meals of soup and salad following for several days after the big meal. So continuing the custom of roasted turkey on Thanksgiving is, I’d say, more easily rationalized.
Earlier this week, President Biden “ensured two ingredients won’t make it onto dinner plates,” specifically two turkeys, Chocolate and Chip, which according to a a McClatchy Washington Bureau news story by Danielle Battaglia (“Biden pardons turkeys ‘Chocolate and Chip’ before they retire to NC State’s campus“) weighed a humongous 46 and 47 pounds, respectively. Yipes! How were those two birds raised in the tar heel state of North Carolina to get so grossly fat?
I can’t answer that exact question, but we recently posted a book review of Corban Addison’s Wasteland, The True Story of Farm Country on Trial, about the environmental wasteland created by cramming five million hogs into factory farms (CAFOs) in North Carolina, and the answer, at best, very likely is off-putting.
The Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that “turkey production [in 2021 valued at $5.89 billion] in the United States during January-September 2022 was 3.91 billion pounds, down about 7 percent from a year earlier.” This year’s outbreak of avian flu, according to a report in the Washington Post, is on track to be the worst ever recorded causing a turkey shortage. 6 million turkeys died during this year’s bird flu outbreak.
For this occasional meat eater and local food advocate, my hometown food co-operative, the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, New York, has been the go-to place for a Thanksgiving’s turkey. Unlike past years, I could not pre-order a turkey from a close-by family-scale farm, and carefully monitored when the Glen Ewe farm turkeys would be available for purchase at the co-op. On my third visit to the store this past Saturday afternoon, I was in luck. A later visit for some groceries this past Monday revealed that all of the co-op’s Glen Ewe turkeys had been purchased by other shoppers days before the holiday, though other fresh birds were still available, but not from Glen Ewe, a family-scale nearby farm.
With the Thanksgiving holiday now at hand, we’re appreciative and grateful to the users of this blog/website, who are part of the good food movement and seek to know the farmers and growers who are committed to “healthy soils = healthy food = healthy people” as the founder of Rodale, J.I. Rodale, once said. Thanks be given that this message is spreading worldwide!
(Frank W. Barrie, 11/24/22)