Food, giving thanks and our families

Sep 28, 2008 at 9:29 p.m. ET

Thanksgiving is all about thankfulness and gratitude. Specifically, it is about counting our FOOD blessings, something we largely take for granted in these days of plenty. This is worth remembering and teaching to our children!

"It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God. To obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor."

-- George Washington, Proclamation for Thanksgiving, 1789

A time to teach

It is that time of year again. Little hands are traced onto colorful paper and made into gobblers to hang upon our refrigerator doors. We are all thinking about traveling or travelers, cooking and family. Thanksgiving is more than just a "Turkey Day," though. It is a grand opportunity to teach our children many things -- gratitude being the first among those things.

It is also a great opportunity to teach about the history of "thanksgiving" rituals which can be traced back to Egypt and before; the history of our country's beginning and our own rituals, and finally to include the kids in the planning and preparation of at least part of the festivities.

The Chinese celebrate their Thanks-giving with moon cakes. The Romans offered grain to Ceres, goddess of the grain harvest in celebration of an offering of thanks -- hence the name cereal. Sir John Marks Templeton said "How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn Thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors. It changes a child's personality. A child is resentful, negative or thankful. Thankful people want to give, they radiate happiness, they draw people."

I believe this statement says it all. The attitude with which we carry on on a day to day basis will either enhance or detract the wonder of each holiday. My children and I took a trip this fall. This is significant for us because it was the first time we had traveled together in the autumn season. They saw for the first time cotton farms, and the corn as the last of the harvesting was done. We also visited a soy dairy and creamery -- where gallons and gallons of soy milk are made weekly as well as soy "ice cream."

harvest gratitude

During the Thanksgiving season and process, it would be entirely appropriate to remember the farmers that supply us with the abundance of food that we have today. These farmers dedicate their lives to raising crops that are in partnership with hard work and common sense combined with the forces of nature. Farming itself, then, is an act of faith. We forget the farmers -- those individuals who raise and tend the pumpkins, turkeys, dairy operations, grain, fruits and vegetables. Whether it is the huge farms that grow wheat and corn or soy, or the small independent organic operation -- we Americans have plenty of food to be thankful for.

Where food comes from

These things should be taught to our all too often hurried children as they slow down for the holiday season -- why we eat the foods we eat and where these foods come from -- really come from. Traditions can be discussed, customs of other countries and the foods that are eaten explored and then the children can take part in the planning of this year's holiday. The internet makes it easy to look up everything -- history, customs and recipes. Let each child add one new thing to try -- a food, lesson or ritual of thanks.

Below are some traditional and twists on tradition for our American Thanksgiving. I hope yours are warm and restful.

Next: Kerri's recipes for roast turkey, blue cranberry sauce and pumpkin bread pudding

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