Thanksgiving in Québec
by Catherine Bastedo
author of Bird Vibes Cards
Thanksgiving is not a particularly widespread or ingrained cultural holiday in Québec, where I live, married to a francophone Quebecer. However, having a long line of Ontario Methodists behind me, I brought the Thanksgiving tradition to my marriage, for better or worse. And now, with grown up daughters, my own family traditions are pretty well ensconced – walks in the woods to admire the glorious colours, turkey dinner with my mother’s no. 1 dressing, cranberry sauce from fresh local cranberries, harvest vegetables, and family and friends to share happy times. Of course, since I carry the archetype of Mother, the Great Pleaser, I always hope it will be perfect for everyone.
The first Thanksgiving question is always who will come for dinner, as a determinant of the size of the turkey. Our three daughters all live near by and would be there, with the husband of one. We invited a nephew, his partner, and a friend of one of the girls (always welcome because she has been for so many years one of the most enthusiastic fans of my cooking) – so nine in all.
Back to the turkey. We decided this year that we would like the turkey to have lived well fed and free to roam. And so I called the local gourmet butcher and ordered this exotic species. I had to plan it perfectly because I have one oven and a small fridge, so that the turkey had to be thawed and ready for pick up the day of the dinner, to be stuffed immediately and put in the oven.
Unfortunately, since I was tied up with other preparations, the pick-up task fell to my husband, who gasped when he was requested to hand over the gold ingots required to pay for this Bird Who Had Lived a Happy Life. When he got it home, and I went to add the dressing, the turkey turned out to be missing a wing! Normally, having cooked many utility grade turkeys missing various parts other years, I would not have batted an eyelash.
But this year, having given over a small fortune, I thought I should have a substitute, and with only 15 minutes left to the put-it-in-the-oven-countdown, I called the butcher. After four tries and various recorded messages, I reached a young man, who passed me to another, and this one finally offered me the wing from another turkey. No, I said, a surgical reattachment of a new wing would not fix my problem.
Did I want another turkey then, seven pounds heavier? NO! There was no time. It wouldn’t fit in the oven. (my solar plexus was doing summersaults.) OK. And we made do with this turkey – it had the advantage of fitting easily in the roasting pan, leaning on its side – although it did look a bit odd.
The next hurdle was the potatoes. Having seen lovely, small, red, new potatoes I had thought, what a great idea – easy to cook, colourful, no need for mashed potatoes. So I bought a large bag. WRONG. My daughters, who had come over early, were clearly having none of this radical change. The mashed potatoes debate began – Grand-maman’s mashed potatoes, light, smooth, and mixed with cream cheese, or Nana’s, meant to be lumpy, and mashed with milk and butter. Skin or no skin? Garlic or not? My sacral chakra was getting jittery. But we opted for compromise – cream cheese but no garlic, and the little new potatoes, cooked and cut in half, placed in a circle on top of the mashed potatoes. A bit more work, but very pretty.
In addition, there were the lovely fresh fall vegetables that – oh dear, another new idea – would be grilled on the BBQ. Only trouble was that the last person to use the BBQ had left the gas on and the BBQ was out of the question. So we juggled the turkey and the vegetables and the sausages and the extra dressing, all in the oven.
One daughter had offered to make coleslaw from her Grand-maman’s recipe. So I had bought a beautiful green cabbage from the market, only the recipe went missing. Turning the kitchen upside down was useless in the existing state of chaos. In the hunt for a substitute recipe, it appeared that a Cabbage Bowl was called for – the cabbage carved out and the coleslaw put back in. Lovely, but somewhat more complicated. And it turns out that cabbage carving takes up a lot of space and litters the floor with tiny bits of cabbage.
Well, we did pull this happy chaotic meal together. And we put the mashed potatoes in a covered vegetable dish that my ninety-seven year old aunt had just given to me – a weird old family dish with elephant head handles and a lid having two birds with duck-like bills that seemed to be clenched onto their own legs. So the ancestors were fully present at our table.
We gave thanks – for family, for friends, for the harvest, for good food, for being together. There was piano music and laughter and pumpkin pie made from my great-grandmother’s recipe. My root chakra filled up to overflowing. My sacral chakra gave up worrying and basked in the conversation. Even my solar plexus was calm and radiated warmth. There is nothing like Thanksgiving to align our lower chakras and keep us grounded for days to come.
Catherine Bastedo is the author of Bird Vibes, a meditation deck to provide insight into current life situations by connecting with nature and the universal energy in us and around us. She offers Holographic-Usui Reiki sessions and classes, and holds Inner Guidance Nature Retreats in Ottawa, Toronto, Muskoka, and other locations. She will be teaching a Chakra Basics class for Wise Woman University online this fall.
2009 © Catherine Bastedo, Vision Reiki
Spiritual Insight Through Birds
by Catherine Bastedo
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