Giving Thanks

Searching for the true meaning of Thanksgiving

I heard a heart-warming story recently on National Public Radio. It was very moving and brought tears to my eyes. The writer (and, on NPR, the reader) of the story, Andrew Lam, related how as a 7th grader he discovered the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

It was about how simple acts of kindness toward his family by Americans in the early 1970s made great impact on the life of his immigrant family who had just moved to the U.S. from Vietnam to escape the war. They had no possessions other than the clothes they were wearing and a small amount of gold. They spoke no English and crowded into the home of a relative -- ten people living in a two-bedroom apartment. I have found the written version of the story on the Internet.
Since hearing that story, I’ve been reflecting about the significance of compassion and acts of love and kindness. It reminded me of what I know but don’t really practice: That doing acts of love and kindness are more important and far more rewarding than receiving them.

As a society living in the fast lane, so to speak, we get caught up in our self-contained individualism and become self-absorbed. We have a tendency to put our own personal convenience, needs and wants ahead of everyone else’s. We forget and neglect other people in our lives, our friends, our relatives, our loved ones, our neighbors, the community and the world as a whole.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday that is full of symbolic meaning and has evolved over the centuries to represent a day of family gathering and gratitude.

Contrary to popular belief, the Plymouth story, which our modern day Thanksgiving celebration is modeled after, doesn’t really reflect the original event.

As most of us know, almost four hundred years ago, in the year 1621, some Plymouth pilgrims had guests dropped in on them unexpectedly. About 90 Wampanoag Indians showed up to share a harvest feast with the 50 or so English colonists, to which they also contributed many other foods. This unplanned event brought peace to these two groups for more than fifty years -- until King Philip’s war killed hundreds of colonists and thousands of Native Americans.

The Thanksgiving ritual began with the New England colonists who regularly celebrated thanksgiving days of prayer to thank God for their fruitful harvest and military victories. The U.S. Continental Congress declared a national Thanksgiving upon enacting the constitution, but the holiday was a source of controversy as Amira Elgansome states felt it was inappropriate for the government to be involved in religious observance. After Northerners gained influence over most of the federal government Thanksgiving became an official national holiday.

Nowadays, Thanksgiving has swayed from its Christian roots and has become an inclusive secular holiday for many including Americans and Canadians from all races and religions, celebrating family, unity and, above all, gratitude for all we have. (The Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of each October.)

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for who we are and what we have but especially to be thankful for being alive. Life is a gift and we need to live it to the fullest each day.

Each of us, whether we want to or not, makes a difference in someone else’s life. We need to remember that a good way to appreciate our own lives is by giving more than receiving.

We can always choose to make someone miserable with our shortsighted views, selfish actions and harsh words or say kind words to everyone who crosses our path, spreading a feeling of love and compassion.

Although there is much suffering and injustice in the world, I believe the Thanksgiving holiday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the meaningful aspects of giving and receiving -- particularly, when so many are deprived of basics needs and even food. It is our duty to be thankful for our privileged lives that so many others can only dream of. We have much to appreciate, not just on Thanksgiving Day but every day.

I want to express how deeply grateful and thankful I am for the unconditional love I receive from my husband and children -- my reason for my being. I’m thankful for all the people in my life that contribute to who I am and to my happiness, for all you readers who give me the gift of your time reading what I write, for my dear supportive friends, for my loving relatives, for food, for health and for this beautiful world we live in. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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Food for Thought

Confession: I love chocolate.

Fortunately, good dark chocolate eaten in moderation is not just an indulgence but is actually good for you. In fact, researchers at Cornell University have found that chocolate is richer in antioxidants, which have more anti-aging and cancer fighting properties, than red wine or tea.

The sugar in chocolate, and the additives in most available brands, however, are not good for you.

Rapunzel makes the best organic chocolate I have ever tried. Amazingly, the bars are sweetened not with sugar but with rapadura (dried sugar cane juice) and don't have any of the fillers, preservatives, added oils or other unnecessary additions you'll find in most supermarket chocolate.

My husband makes a mean cup of hot chocolate using Rapunzel’s organic cocoa powder. I love having a cup of hot cocoa occasionally, especially in the wintertime. Here is how to make it:

Heat 1 cup of soymilk and add ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract, a little pinch of cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon of rapadura or sucanat. Let it come to a soft boil, whisk and mix thoroughly until it all dissolves and froth forms. Serve.

Words of Wisdom

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own.”

Benjamin Disraeli

The Research Department

A consumer advocacy group is calling on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to investigate the negative health effects and possibly death the Atkins diet may cause on dieters.

Though the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine stated that they could not prove the Atkins diet can hurt or kill anyone, the parents of a 16-year-old dieter who recently died believe the Atkins diet is responsible for their daughter’s death. The hospital’s pediatrician where the teenager died believes that the high protein diet may have caused leaching of calcium and potassium from her body, which led to fatal heart arrhythmia.

The Atkins diet regimen encourages high meat eating and fatty foods displacing and avoiding carbohydrates including fruit and vegetables. Experts and consumer health advocates fear the health effects such a diet may have over time on those who adhere to it such as high cholesterol, risk of kidney disease, osteoporosis and colon cancer. To read a previous article I wrote on fad diets click here.

Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Click on the picture for a closer look!

Apple Pie (vegan)
Serves 8 - 10

This wholesome apple pie is a healthier alternative to the regular high trans fat and high sugar apple pie. My husband has always been crazy about apple pie so I created this healthy version for him to enjoy without guilt. I like using sweet apples instead tart apples as most recipes called for.

Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 75 minutes Equipment: Pastry blender, rolling pin, 9-inch pie dish

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon rapadura or sucanat
½ teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons very cold margarine (expeller-pressed and trans fat free)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons very ice cold water (more or less may be needed)

6 cups sliced gala apples, cored and peeled (about 5 medium apples)
½ cup + 1 tablespoon sucanat
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon margarine cut in tiny pieces

1. To make crust, in a large bowl combine flour, sucanat and salt mixing well with a fork. Add margarine to flour and use a pastry blender or two knives to cut margarine into the flour until the mixture looks crumbly and coarse like beads.

2. Add cold water about three tablespoons at a time into flour mixing with a fork after adding water each time. Continue to repeat the process until the dough starts holding together and is no longer crumbly (may need a little more or less than water). Use your clean hands to gently knead the pastry dough into a ball inside the bowl without over handling it. Cover with wax paper and refrigerate. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

3. Meanwhile, for the filling, mix sliced apples, ½ cup sucanat, cinnamon, starch, orange juice and vanilla in a separate bowl. Lightly cover and set aside.

4. Take dough out of the fridge and cut it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other shaping each piece into a ball and placing smaller piece back in the fridge. For the bottom crust, take larger piece and on a lightly floured smooth surface roll it with a floured rolling pin into a 1/8-inch thick large circle. Gently roll it onto rolling pin (taking care not to tear it) to transfer it onto pie dish. Carefully unroll the dough circle onto a 9-inch pie dish perfectly lining it so the dough takes the shape of pie dish touching the bottom and sides. There should be about 2 inches of dough hanging all around the circumference of the pie dish rim.

5. Take the apple filling and place it in the pie dish lined with the bottom crust. Dot the filling evenly with the small pieces of remaining tablespoon of margarine, sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sucanat and flour then set aside.

6. For top crust, take second piece of pastry dough and roll it out onto a lightly floured smooth surface with a floured rolling pin into a large 1/8-inch thick circle. To place top crust over pie, roll circle over rolling pin and unroll it onto the pie filling evenly and carefully covering the entire dish. Slightly trim crust edges to make the overhanging edges even. Fold crust-overhanging edges inward over pie dish rim (with rolling and twisting motion so the crust will look like a rope adorning the edge of the pie) pinching the dough to form a thick edge and press with fingertips. Use a knife to make at least five 1-inch slits on top crust to allow steam out. Place pie on middle rack in the oven and bake for 60 minutes or until it looks golden brown all over. Set timer. Serve.


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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

Copyright© 2003 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.