On Thanksgiving morning, 2011, I spent about 30 minutes making sure our dinner didn’t run away. I was studying abroad in northern Uganda at the time, and one of my housemates had just returned from a trip to the market with our prize turkey in hand–alive and well. Now I was charged with keeping tabs on it as it spent its final hours wondering around the floor of our house.
This was, to say the least, the most intimate relationship I had ever cultivated with my Thanksgiving dinner.
Having been in Uganda for almost three months already, the episode probably didn’t faze me as much of it would have at the beginning of September, but it nonetheless set some thoughts in motion. I tried to imagine how my Grandmother would have reacted if my Aunt ever had a turkey strutting around her kitchen during our family Thanksgiving celebrations. It’s strange how people are so reluctant to face the realities of what they’re eating–and I am absolutely one of the guilty in this respect. But why should seeing our food alive make us feel more uncomfortable consuming it once we have killed it? Morbid, perhaps….but true.
Uganda taught me countless new ways to relate to my food (some of which I’m sure I will be sharing at a later time in this blog) but this relationship with the turkey was probably the most glaring. I mean, it seems counterintuitive or even borderline sadistic to welcome a turkey into your home and watch it explore for a while, knowing that it would meet its fate in just a few short hours (and that fate was definitely not a pleasant one–Uganda could do with a few more knife sharpeners lying around). But I take solace in the fact that this experience at least forced me to come face to face (literally) with the realities of such a proud American tradition. Even though we had very few of the quintessential Thanksgiving foods at our feast, it was definitely the most memorable celebration I have had so far in my life. And the turkey was delicious.