We live in a time of unprecedented interest in, and care for, food and all the issues that surround its growing, harvesting, purveyance, and its cooking.  This interest happened because we were on the brink of losing good food altogether, with farmers disappearing and the masses abandoning the kitchen, handing over our farming to Monsanto and giving our most fundamental and exclusively human act, cooking, over to the ConAgras and McDonalds.  (ConAgra, one of our biggest food processors, is that name a joke on us?! Con, against, Agra, agriculuture—against agriculture! At least they’re open about it!)

We only become reflective about something we’d previously taken for granted when it becomes imperiled. I’m not saying that rampant diabetes in teenagers, epidemic obesity, social fragmentation and alienation, nitrogen runoff in our rivers and oceans, oceans increasingly depleted of fish, the spread of lethal food borne bacteria, is all food related  … wait a minute … of course that’s what I’m saying! It is!

I’m saying it.  If every tribe cooked raw food for itself, all of this would go away.  Not immediately but over a generation or two.  If every tribe suddenly started cooking good food, though—would it even be possible, would there be enough fresh food for 300 million people if no one ate McD’s and Doritos and Snackwells and Coke for their meals?  I don’t think so.

But this is not a day for ranting, it’s a day for celebrating what we do have.  Thanksgiving is the great American holiday, our holiday that centers around food.  Ironic of course that the country that lead the way in trashing our food and making fast food a global phenomenon actually has a holiday about celebrating food and bounty.  I’m glad we didn’t lose this as well.  It remains a day to cook, to gather, to be grateful for what we have.

Now, today, there truly is something to celebrate.  These turkeys, for one.  I know the husband and wife who raised them.  They live an hour or so east of me.  My daughter is fifteen.  If I’d asked my dad to get a turkey from a farm for thanksgiving when I was her age, he wouldn’t have known where to begin (even if he had entertained such a ludicrous idea).  If, when he was writing down TV Dinners and Tang and Space Food Sticks and Quisp cereal on our weekly shopping list, if I’d have said, “Could you get a hog this week as well?”  He’d have looked at me like I was a Martian.

A single generation later, I have three different sources for hand-raised pork or a whole hog.  This is something to celebrate.  The turkeys above, raised by Aaron and Melissa Miller, are a triumph (they’re White Hollands, Melissa told me, all but apologizing that they weren’t heirlooms, which their client base couldn’t afford).  “To change the world, start with one step.”  Things are changing.  All you kind folks who stop by this site, all you who comment, who blog about food, all of you who simply cook for your family or encourage someone in your family to cook for you—you are changing things.  It’s a slow, incremental change, but it’s happening.

So to everyone, enjoy the cooking of the food today, wherever it came from, don’t stress about it, put it on the table and gather round it whenever it’s ready and be grateful.  This is a day on which to celebrate our family and friends and we do it around the stuff that is both a spiritual and literal nourishment on this uniquely American holiday, centered around the uniquely human act of cooking.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!


34 Wonderful responses to “Cook! Celebrate! Happy Thanksgiving!”

  • Wilma de Soto

    Take the time today to actually sit at table with family and savor really well-cooked food a loved one has made for you and contemplate why this family time seems to have gone the way of the oxcart in America. Enjoy it! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours Michael Ruhlman.

  • Linda A

    Happy Thanksgiving to all my neighbours from Canada, where we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Thanks to you, Michael for your excellent blog and my iphone app Ratio!

  • James Cullen

    I couldn’t agree more Michael. Cooking for the family, spending time together, enjoying the bounty, and keeping in mind the less fortunate are hallmarks of this day. Days like today are just as satisfying, if not more so, than when I cook professionally.

  • flounder

    Excellent sentiment Mr. Ruhlman. With homemade chicken liver pate, home baked breads, roasted turkey, home brewed beers, and everyone else making stuff from scratch, the only improvement would be FIREWORKS after dark!!

  • Allan Lazenby

    I’m thankful for you, Mike, and your passion for food. PBS taught me to be brave enough to cook as a child, but Elements taught me the science of what I was doing wrong. And most of all – Ratio in App form for today’s biscuit recipe calculation. 😉

  • Nikki Daigel

    Thank you for such a wonderful post…although I enjoy reading all of your posts, today’s is especially meaningful. Keep up the great work…we’ll keep reading. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • former butcher

    Thank you, Chef Ruhlman, for your always informative site, your wonderful books, and the lively discussion that this site provides for all of us

  • Jason Sandeman

    Happy Thanksgiving Michael! Unfortunately, it is getting near impossible here in QC to find a farmer that will deal with you. I am not really sure about the code here, but IIRC, they can only sell you something like a 1/2 cow, not processed. They can’t even give it to you. You are certainly NOT allowed to get raw milk, unless you go there in a clandestine fashion. They are not allowed to advertise, and the list goes on and on…
    It is sad really. Change is happening a bit by bit, as people fight for their rights to good food. Unfortunately QC is not known to be lax.

  • Joe S

    Happy Thanksgiving from Austria! I cooked a Thanksgiving meal for friends here and they loved it. It is truly a wonderful holiday, especially with the emphasis on communal cooking and eating. These memories, of helping our parents prepare Thanksgiving dinner, stay with us all the way into adulthood. From my view here in Europe, the American food culture is definitely healthy and vibrant today. Keep on cooking everyone!

  • Karen Downie Makley

    such a lovely holiday…my favorite, in fact. enjoyed a beautiful meal with a non-blood-related and slightly-dysfunctional family unit and had such a joyful night. dinner was a collaborative effort and was PERFECT.
    i love, and am ever-grateful for, being so very lucky indeed

  • David

    Thanks for mentioning the depletion of fish stocks.
    Nutritionists and food lovers saying, “Eat more fish. Eat more fish,” while the oceans are being hoovered of all life forms.
    What are we supposed to do when the fish are gone? Ask God for more?

  • Cooking01

    I did take your advance gravy prep to heart and am grateful I did!!! It was awesome because I’m at a timeshare with horrible cookware and little in the way of a grocery store. Thanksgiving was awesome because of your recipe for gravy in advance! Thank you!!!

  • rich sims

    Michael, i just put my family to bed, after cooking, stuffing and making four sides. I’m exausted, your made made me happy!

  • Erik

    Ruhlman, thanks be to this blog, and your food writings/musings/rantings. They inspire and require us to push the boundaries of what we already know and are comfortable with. And the gravy recipe… SPOT… ON. Happy Thanksgiving.

    Oh, and of course the turkey carcas is in the oven for an overnight 200 degree bath. Turkey risotto tomorrow. Obviously.

  • Janet Nelson

    Hard to believe that when I was a kid your daughter’s age (in the mid 60’s) there was still a little retail poultry shop in the Shaker Hts. like suburb where I grew up where you got your turkeys and chickens. I remember when it closed because the farm could not afford the government required inspections.

  • Homer R. Reese, Jr

    Everyone, take a closer look. It is possible to feed 300 million people fresh, healthy food, and even throw in dessert. If greed were to be removed, and science better utilized for achieving this goal instead of that other direction – I won’t mention that direction – it is achievable. In fact, there are more and more people working in the right direction direction everyday. I am happily surprised all the time. Stay tuned.

    Homer R. Reese, Jr.,
    Writer and Project Coordinator
    Research and Development
    Healthy Cooking

  • claire

    Michael, lovely sentiments and a wonderful blog. When I was married, Thanksgiving was a very special holiday for us. We always hosted a huge group, and it was a time for us to really be together. For the past two Novembers though, I haven’t been able to cook a large traditional meal, so my oldest friend and I go out for Chinese with whoever doesn’t have plans for the day. As I cook for a living, and am trying to launch a new concept in the restaurant, the notion of a big production made me want to crawl into bed and sleep for days.
    I have a lot to be thankful for: great friends, work that challenges me and lets me be creative, and a great Chinese restaurant just a few minutes away. Yesterday was wonderful. I slept in, puttered around the house, and ended it around a table with my favorite people, completely stress-free.

  • rich sims

    Michael, after ten years of thanksgiving dinners, i did every dish justice. The turkey was moist, your stock/ reduced gravy was un believeble, Every side was gone at the end of the meal. I once stressed over big meals, but thanks to chef’s Keller and Pepin i now know that techique and reducduction are the basic’s for a refined meal. Life is so good with technique.

  • Coley

    I’m heading into the end of my second week at a restaurant that uses mostly local and organic ingredients. I, myself, find it hard to afford all-organic foodstuffs (I am living on a line cook’s salary, after all), but working there has really opened my eyes to what a difference it makes. I urge everyone, if they are able, to buy organic and local. And if you can’t, buy what you can and make the best of it. Even though my living depends on people eating out, nothing beats a homecooked meal, no matter if it’s fancy or plain.

  • Nathaniel Garcia

    Senate is voting to control home gardeners and small organic farms. The big guys will control are food supply further. Urge your senators to vote no on bill S 510. The vote is on Monday Nov 29.

  • Donna from Yumma Yumma

    Great post! We had our first fresh-from-the-farm-organic turkey this year and it was the best we’ve ever had! It was also a great opportunity to further educate some of our family members as to why it makes a difference to buy fresh and organic from the farms as much as possible. Let’s keep spreading the word!

  • E. Nassar

    I’ve bought “organic” and “Free-range” turkeys for the past few years’ T-days from the store, but this year I actually purchased a fresh -not frozen- Red Bourbon turkey from a farmer at my local farmers market (I did reserve it like 2 months ago) and dry-brined it with salt and herbs for a couple fo days based on Russ Parsons’ recipe. What a revelation this bird was! Today, while I am at work the last bit of the carcass and the roasted wings are simmering gently in a crock pot for tonight’s dinner soup. Not a piece of it went to waste as we ate through it over the last week. I am hoping to tell the farmer how good that turkey was this week in hopes that he will raise some again next year.

  • Phil Moon

    My town is home to one of the largest poultry processing companies in America. Pilgrim’s Pride is a 6 billion dollar a year company. Bo Pilgrim also owns either part or all of ConAgra. But living near near all of these chicken houses, we hear horror stories of chickens that grow so big so fast that they cannot even stand or walk. I don’t know what they’re being fed, but they grow too fast and that cannot be healthy for them or for us.