Have Your Thanksgiving

Cherri Ellis NovAnd eat it, too.

by Cherri Ellis


am always so surprised when I meet a vegan and like them. For no good reason, I have this wildly inaccurate prejudice about vegans. I consider them to be a dank and humorless people, living in the shadows and judging me for eating things with faces. The word tofurkey makes me sad. It just sounds like a food with issues, trying to fit in by being something it’s not.   

When did eating become such a lifestyle choice?

Imagine hosting a Thanksgiving with the classic menu of turkey, gravy, potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, and cranberry sauce. If you have four guests, their diets could be gluten-free, vegan, low carb, or Paleo. There is not one single dish of the classic Thanksgiving menu that would be on everybody’s plate, and the gravy isn’t on anyone’s.

I have a friend who went through a raw food phase, and one of the things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving is that I didn’t have to be her friend then. With a “living food” diet, you not only just eat plants, but they can’t have been heated over 118 degrees. You can’t have cheese or milk, so whenever you need a creamy texture, you blend up almonds or cashews. As she told me the recipe for cold broccoli soup, I listened to her with the awe reserved for a POW telling stories of captivity. When I quietly asked, “What about the children?” she looked at me with what I consider to be an inadequate level of shame and said, “They ate it, too.” She appears to be fully recovered now, but frankly, the fact that she did this for six months makes me question her decision-making ability across the board.

I love it when Paleo enthusiasts tell me that it’s a sound plan because they are eating like cavemen. They feel that this is what our bodies must be designed for. How is this a good idea? We don’t do anything else like cavemen. We don’t handle dentistry or food storage issues like they did then. We have evolved. We do not have to eat only things we caught or found in the dirt—we have Arby’s. It’s called progress.

I have tried a variety of eating plans. One time, after a fantastic amount of lobbying, my daughter convinced me to do a three-day juice cleanse. It cost a staggering $300 to buy all of the little bottles, and I was struck by the irony that we went to a high-end grocery store and spent that much money in order to not eat food. Every day we each drank six:  two swampy green, one beet red, one bright orange, one pale yellow, and one milky white. Our adventure ended in the middle of the third day with a U-turn across three lanes of traffic into a Taco Bell. Eating in the car on that magical run to the border, we decided that it wasn’t really a failure. We renamed it the two-and-a-half-day cleanse and went shopping. (My back fridge still holds the last six bottles, and by now they’re so old I am afraid their cleansing abilities would be rather harsh, if not fatal.)

Another time, after the Christmas holidays, we joined Weight Watchers. It was all very digital. Jennifer Hudson did not sit in the basement of a church in a circle of chairs and talk about recipes. There are apps and food calculators and all types of online support. The way it works is that every food or beverage has a certain number of points, and you are allotted so many points per day. You get extra points for exercise, and you can save up points for special occasions and blow it out. The first thing I looked up was how many points a glass of chardonnay has. The answer is four points for a five-ounce glass. I poured five ounces of water into a wineglass and looked at it. It was clear that on Friday nights I wasn’t going to have any points for food.

Another diet I’ve tried is The 100 Diet, which allows you 100 “sugar calories” a day. All you do is look at the number of carbohydrates listed on the nutrition label of a food and multiply by four. Bare in mind that one plain baked potato has 37 carbs, so that is roughly a day and a half’s worth of sugar. On this plan, fruit is very limited and anything white is gone. Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta…gone. You can, however, consume a side of beef or the better part of a pig anytime you feel like it. I did lose weight on this diet, but it wasn’t sustainable.

As with religion and sexuality and politics—eat what you want, but don’t be an asshat about it. Once, at a business lunch at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, the grill chef’s rhythm was thrown off by a woman who kept stopping him with, “Wait, what is in that bottle? Is it oil? I don’t want that on mine. Is it broth? Does it have MSG?” How his cleaver stayed out of her head, I do not know.

C’mon. It’s the holidays. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Everything in moderation, especially moderation.”

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