When I was living in the mountains of northern Thailand, the days were long and hot. The elephants had to be found (they wander at times) led to take their bath, run in their training and then ridden to the rivers, washed again and set to jungle pasture for the night. To and from my elephant was an inevitable hike except on the days in which she would come find me and awaken me early by running her trunk under the straw mat “walls.” The hot breath of an elephant trunk is a startling way to wake up, if not somewhat charming.
On hot days a salad is what is needed, and these are the ingredients of a Som Tam soon to be mixed and ground into a delightful salad for me and my Mahout friends whose promise of stir fried green beans with pork and, well, a small bit of Thai whiskey, would fill out a good dinner to the music of the jungle.
These are simple ingredients but they make a very good salad and the salad felt good on my body in the steamy heat of a Thai jungle. One does not want to ride elephants on a full stomach.
Thanksgiving is the name in Greek for what we call Eucharist and so the meal and the word have a double-meaning. I love feasting and yet always comes to mine images of my friends in Cap Haitien and Nairobi, Chiang Mai, Gilpin Court, and Volokolamsk, Jordan and Jerusalem, Mount Athos and Buenos Aires – so many places in which I have lived and worked side-by-side with friends for whom our American version of feasting can be viewed as a bit, well, over the top.
As we make our dishes today in preparation for tomorrow’s feast, I wonder what it would be like to thank God for each ingredient as we make things rather than a meal we are about to consume. What would it be like to take a page from our Jewish and Mennonite brothers and sisters – looking carefully at each ingredient?
A Thanksgiving cooking prayer:
“Thank you for this tomato. Thank you for the design of it and its beauty. Thank you for its nutrients and its smooth skin. Thank you that it was picked for me to buy. Thank you for the one who picked it. May that migrant worker in Florida be fed with fair wages today. Thank you for the sweetness of a tomato and for the energy the sweetness will produce for me and others at my table tomorrow. Thank you for the health of a body which can process this tomato. Thank you for the truck driver whose driving brought this tomato to my table. Thank you that I have the time and energy to do the creative and life-giving work of preparing this dish. Thank you that I won the birth-lottery and am part of the 8% of the world’s population which feasts. Thank you that I can see with open eyes the injustice my wealth and my nation’s wealth imposes on the planet which groans under our destruction of it. And thank you that with fasting comes feasting at times. May this tomato fuel the 26 muscles it takes for me to smile and may it not be quite enough to fuel the 62 muscles it takes to frown. May the beauty of this tomato be enough to remind me that not saying that unkind word at the Thanksgiving Table tomorrow (under the influence of the wine …which reminds me…thank you for the grape…) will be another way to thank you – even though saying that mean or sarcastic comment will feel good for a moment and is even deserved by its target. And thank you for mindfulness.