week 12: preparing for a local Thanksgiving

Next week, Joe & I are hosting our first holiday: Thanksgiving with my parents & sister. I was excited to invite them over & see what it looked like to put together a local holiday meal. I got overly excited & decorated for Christmas a bit this week… Now I’m planning the menu.

Joe & I frequently remind ourselves that each time we buy groceries, we’re buying our beliefs. So, when it came time to choose between a Butterball turkey & a local bird, we did it. All $25 of it. Ouch. Can we get a Butterball for 99 cents a pound at Target? Mhmm. But it comes at another, external cost.

Let’s start here: The Twinkie & The Carrot, with Michael Pollan.

You heard that right: fresh fruits & vegetables are specialty crops. And I’ll be honest: I firmly believe that my local, pastured turkey, and my sharing it–with you and my family–can change this. We can bring public health (and with it environmental heath) back into our diets. We can change the face of demand, which will have to change the face of supply.

But still, how did I, a broke graduate student, justify the expense? By breaking it down.

1. That’s five pounds of turkey. Which is five dollars a pound. A serving size is three ounces. So. 5 lb x 16 oz/pd ÷ 3 oz/serving = 26 servings. Which is less than a dollar a serving. It’ll be dinner, then late night snacks, then turkey salad & turkey sandwiches. Then bones will be boiled for stock. Then the turkey will continue on into more meals. We make use of every bit of it, including the bone (since we opted for the smallest “breast with bone in” option that was available).

2. We don’t buy meat. Okay, we had bison last week. But we buy meat once a month, maybe. So even if we bought this turkey once a month, that’s $300 of meat a year. We’re way under that, and the average American family spends more than double that–over $700*!

3. We’re saving in other places. We have green beans in the freezer, from when they were cheap at market & in season. We buy the large bags of standard organic potatoes instead of the fancy organic potatoes. That’s about $6 for a 5-pound bag. That’s $1.20 a pound. For potatoes–a nutritious, filling food. Ditto with sweet potatoes: organic sweet potatoes are maybe 20 cents a pound more expensive than conventional.

We buy bulk organic carrots instead of the nice bunches of yellow & purple carrots. Are they great, small, local farms? No. They’re big, organic farms in California. But we’re not using chemicals, and we’re not sacrificing on our beliefs. At this point, Cal-Organic is still a necessary part of this “movement.”

We’re sticking with the basics. In past Thanksgivings, with friends, I felt the need to go gourmet. Stuffings with dried berries & imported meats. Turkey stuffed with aged cheeses & wrapped in more imported meats. It. was. expensive. But the essentials of the holiday are not. Carrots. Celery. Onions. Stale bread. Heck, even organic pumpkins are only 40 cents a pound!

4. This is a harvest holiday–it’s a meal of the heartlands. It’s the one meal we still all eat seasonally. So, give yourself the freedom to do it up right. Eat the food your community is growing, & be thankful they put the time into growing it. After all, that’s what this is all about.


About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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