Back in the Ye Olden Days, N and I worked on boats. One of these boats – the one we met on – was a scuba diving liveaboard that plied the waters between St. Maarten and St. Kitts, in the Netherlands Antilles. Much of our history together, along with thousands of other people, was erased earlier this year with the landfall of Hurricane Irma. The island we knew so well doesn’t exist any longer.

Thanksgiving magazines

Every year, they promise the PERFECT Thanksgiving. And every year, we buy it.

On this particular dive boat, there were as many as eighteen guests and eight crew. I cooked, and N guided dives. And because provisioning in the Caribbean is never easy, the weekly menu was set by the home office, and it was the same, week in and week out. We had Taco Night, and a barbecue, and because most of our guests were American, every Thursday was a full Thanksgiving spread. Because – trust me – there is nothing you want to eat more in the middle of a humid Caribbean July than the heaviest meal known to man. Every. Single. Thursday.

Thanksgiving turkey ad

We’re so rich in this country that we will give you a free turkey!

I’ve cooked well more than fifty full Thanksgiving meals in my time on this planet thus far, and I’d like to state here and now that I am done. Unsurprisingly, N cannot stand the meal either. I’ve talked about this before in my classes – how much I really, really loathe this season – but this year, it’s worse than ever. I simply cannot embrace the excess. The waste. The sheer, utter, obscene overconsumption just for the sake of pointless tradition.

Stone Barns-11.jpg

Over two hundred million pounds of food will be thrown away on or shortly after Thanksgiving. The USDA conservatively estimates that over one-third of all turkeys raised for this one day will be thrown out, uneaten. These animals lived a horrible life and died for nothing. This is the season both for abundance and for waste, when we’re both begged to donate to hundreds of needy charities yet told at every turn that we need to buy more, eat more, consume more. I can no longer support America’s most gluttonous holiday: we’re the only country in the world that celebrates Thanksgiving, and we do so with such little regard for the shocking overconsumption that we promote to the rest of the world. And then there’s the day after Thanksgiving.


Because nothing says “giving thanks” like buying a bolt-action rifle on Black Friday.

A holiday devoted to proudly eating oneself into a “turkey coma,” followed by camping out so we can buy ever-larger televisions or the latest iPhone? Or a new gun? What is there to celebrate, honestly? While this holiday may have actually originated as a rightful celebration of having enough, now it’s about having more. More of everything. More food, specifically the dishes we just “have to have at the table.” You know, Aunt Mildred’s casserole that everyone secretly hates but it’s tradition. And so it sits there, congealing, and is quietly thrown out at the end of the evening because no one, no one wants to take it home. Or the two meat main courses, because everyone really needs both ham and turkey. And everyone really needs eight different side dishes. And everyone really needs three desserts. And everyone really needs to throw all this excess food away on the Sunday evening after Thanksgiving because, quite frankly, everyone is f*ing tired of looking at it.


How about this year, we declare it enough. We have enough. Enough food. Enough electronics. Enough guns. Enough unused things in our house collecting dust. How about this year we agree to eat less, to buy less, to not feel sick at ten o’clock at night while we’re camping out at Bed Bath & Beyond. How about this year, we don’t worry about what do with all those leftovers because we just cooked enough. How about this year, we just decide that what we have is enough. And how about we leave it at that.

23 thoughts on “Enough

  1. Very well said!!. The smallest turkey I could find was 11 3/4 lbs. I’ll freeze half, and make broth with the bones, turkey noodle soup as the snow flies. I love the Judy Bird, next year I think it will be a Judy Chicken


  2. I love Thanksgiving, I think it’s the best holiday in the world because of what it’s meant to be, a reminder to be grateful for what we have. Gratitude is the secret to happiness. A day to appreciate either how little or how much we have, and in my life, I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum. And as you know, Elizabeth, I haven’t eaten turkey, chicken or meat in more than 25 years. I’m going to a vegan celebration.

    Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. That the spirit of the holiday gets lost among some, that it’s become commercial with Black Friday, these things are unfortunate but we can be part of the solution; Not by calling for the elimination of the holiday but inviting others to join us, sharing the good will, expressing what we’re thankful for. And for me, part of what I love is being an American. I’ve also done a lot of traveling, I lived in other countries. It was those experiences in foreign lands that taught me what a blessing it is to be a citizen of the U.S….and no, I did not vote for Trump nor am I a Republican…but I do own a gun. I hope everyone who reads this celebrates Thanksgiving with its original intent, with love in their hearts and in their homes or wherever the holiday has brought you.


    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Marty. I definitely agree that gratitude is the secret to happiness, and I also am exceptionally proud to be American. I just struggle a lot with the unrestrained consumption that we as a country seem to be so inordinately fond of. Wishing you a lovely holiday season!


  3. I love this post. It breaks my heart to think of all those animals tossed away without a thought.

    I am with you in the spirit of enjoying the season without all of the shopping, gluttony and excess.


  4. Amy, thank you. I do genuinely enjoy sharing good food with family and friends, but somehow this year I am struggling to accept all of the excess. I think less is more, and I’m working hard on incorporating that mindset into my daily life.


    • I think it’s a constant work in progress.

      Are you aware of Courtney at Be More with Less? I think you’d connect with her message. I recently read about something special she sends in email each day around now. There’s a cost but it’s nominal and she’ has a lot of integrity.


  5. Good post. Actually, America is not the only country to celebrate Thanksgiving. Canada has a Thanksgiving holiday the second Monday in October. It is not as important a holiday as in the USA and the dinner is not quite as traditional though it usually includes turkey.


    • Nancy, you’re absolutely right and I should have noted that in the post. Somehow I never want to lump Canadians in with Americans – they seem so much more sensible and civilized than we do.


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  9. Well, I can see where you’re coming from! However, when I was a kid we didn’t throw out food period. No food = no dinner. Even now we have turkey a few days, freeze some, make turkey pot pie, and turkey soup with the rest. I can’t imagine throwing out whole turkeys! Give me a few to cook and freeze!


    • I agree wholeheartedly; we also didn’t throw anything out when I was growing up. It is challenging for me to acknowledge how much food we waste, especially when people go hungry every day.


  10. I have been making vegan Thanksgiving for my parents for a few years now. Everything is delicious. I have some friends that have many refrigerators in their home because they go dumpster diving and find lots of food that the grocery store throws away – food in jars and bottles. One man told me the day before Thanksgiving in CA (no surprise there) meat, chicken, turkey tossed still frozen, so he took it all to his friends.


    • It is so disheartening to learn how much perfectly good food is thrown out – but I’m always glad to hear about people who salvage it. Especially since dumpster diving is so risky and illegal in many places!


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  12. I agree, the excess is out of control, in both the food and buying “stuff”. I am trying so hard to be more mindful of buying just what is needed and using up what we have, so we are not throwing away food. This year we did cook a turkey breast and just a couple sides. We ate up everything but not all the gravy. Next year, no gravy. And definitely, never any Black Friday. How about donating to a charity for gifts? Or buying something handmade by an artist? Much more personal and special than a sweater from (dept. store). I think it’s hilarious how the decorating style that’s in now is Scandanavian, so it’s about simplifying and having less, so Americans are going out and buying more to have less.


    • So true! And yes, the minimalist Scandinavian design – but Americans interpret that as an opportunity to buy more! It would be funny if it didn’t result in so much waste. I read recently that about 4% of all Christmas gifts are thrown immediately into the trash without being used. That may have been the exact moment when I committed to never buying Christmas gifts again.


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