Everyday Stories of Peace, entry fourteen, November 27, 2014
Our plans for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner began six months ago with a pack of seeds and a bit of dirt. As soon as last winter was safely past and the sun had sufficiently warmed the topsoil, my daughter and I went out to the vegetable patch to plant a few rows of carrots. This was actually a difficult task. Carrot seeds are almost imperceptibly small and resemble a fleck of black pepper. It takes a steady hand to sow a straight line of seeds, and coordinated fingers to thin out the seedlings once they have made it to the soil surface. We planted the seeds last May and hoped that there’d be enough sun and water to bring a few of the orange vegetables to our Thanksgiving dinner table this November.
Carrots became a permanent dish at our family’s annual Thanksgiving table the year we helped serve dinner at a local soup kitchen near our home in Massachusetts. Once a month, a group of people through our church would take turns cooking and serving a warm home-cooked meal. That November, our family was in charge of vegetables. This meant that we had to prepare enough carrots to feed anywhere between 60 to 100 people, depending upon how many came to the soup kitchen that day.
That same year, I was helping at a nearby community farm to finish up projects before winter. One of our tasks was to go through the carrot patch with pitchforks, overturn the soil and remove any carrots which had been overlooked during the harvest. I came home with two large bags of extremely muddy roots. It took our family several days to scrub clean all the carrots, and even more time to scrape and chop them into bite-size pieces. We took shifts at the kitchen counter, the kids taking a break from homework to peel a few carrots at a time. After all that hard work making so many carrots ready for the pot, we wanted to cook them just right. I found the perfect recipe in a French cookbook. The year we served our Thanksgiving carrots, there were a lot of people who came back for seconds.
We’ve cooked and help serve many times at that soup kitchen. Once my son and his friend made and served sandwiches. In the process, they discovered that their production speed was thirty sandwiches an hour. The bigger realization for all of us, however, was a deeper feeling of gratitude. It’s like the the happy feeling you get when cooking for a large extended family.
So when our family sits down to Thanksgiving, we always look at the carrots and remember the year we were able to pick, scrub, peel, chop, cook and serve carrots at the local soup kitchen. I think that everyone in our family felt grateful that they had the opportunity to help in some small way, getting the carrots from the Earth all the way to a table where they were most needed. Our Thanksgiving carrots help us think about all the factors concerning food, from growing it to sharing it and making sure that everyone has enough to eat.
This Thanksgiving there will be carrots at our table, but not ones we have grown ourselves. A backyard bird helped herself to our seedlings. Perhaps she had a full nest to feed; a few more members of our extended family.