Family & Home/ Food & Drink

Leanne Brown on Giving Back This Thanksgiving

Leanne Brown, author of Good and Cheap, writes about what Thanksgiving, togetherness, and giving back mean to her. Read more about her bestselling cookbook here

Wow, so hey, Thanksgiving is coming up. How did that happen? With everything else going on, you may feel, as I do, slightly shocked that it is now mid-November. There is life outside of the news media? Are you sure? Okay, okay . . . I’ll take your word for it. But holidays are stressful as well, aren’t they? 

What we need more than anything is to do our best to make this Thanksgiving the most rejuvenating holiday possible. Let’s be open and honest with our friends and family, setting boundaries about what we can manage in terms of conversation, hospitality, and travel. Let’s help this holiday become what it is meant to be: a time to reconnect, feel gratitude, and heal. Because making a pumpkin pie for your family matters. Sitting and sharing time together matters. All the small things we do matter. They add up and they matter. 

And although the holidays are, for some, a harried time, cooking for a crowd does not have to be super expensive or scary—in fact, it really shouldn’t be. Stressed and worried food is never delicious. So be good to yourself. Remember to ask people to bring contributions—most people have their specialty (perhaps their specialty is always bringing wine—hooray!) and will be delighted to help out. 

If you do decide to prepare food, a big part of your holiday self-care can be selecting easy, crowd-pleasing recipes. And, obviously I’m biased here, but I want you to know: Good and Cheap can help you out! Even better—right now the ebook is being offered at a big discount! Try the brussels sprout hash and eggs, or the bubbly cauliflower and cheese, or just get really down with some roasted vegetables. Take some deep breaths and remember—it’s just cooking. People have been doing this forever. We CAN DO THIS. Let’s create welcoming tables where we can talk openly and feel the love in every bite. (As far as Thanksgiving day conversation goes, that is of course up to you, but I am going to be thinking and talking about this excellent primer from the Southern Poverty Law Center on responding to bigotry.)

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, let’s keep our thoughts turned outward to people who are hit hard around this time of year. One reason why I will be focusing outward is selfish: It makes me feel better.

Amherst Survival Center

Thanksgiving is a big fundraising season for organizations dedicated to feeding and serving those who are experiencing hunger. I recently had the extraordinary privilege of visiting the Amherst Survival Center (ASC) in Amherst, Mass—a community center that connects local residents with food, clothing, healthcare, and much more. They are one of our many partners and have given away over 600 copies of Good and Cheap to their community members. When you enter the ASC, a bright, open building filled with light and lively chatter, you are greeted and asked one simple question: What town do you live in? Anyone from the towns nearby can use the services of the center. No other questions asked. You might be experiencing homelessness, in which case you are given a locker and a toothbrush. If you have a sticky health concern, you are shown to one of the doctors. If you are hungry, there is delicious, free lunch served at noon, where you might run into a local politician, friend, or colleague. Or you might use the food pantry or the thrift store, drop off donations yourself, or get into the kitchens to lend a hand. Maybe you have an idea for an event or a way to solve a problem. You are listened to and welcomed. The line between the server and the served is delightfully blurred. Ideas and talents of all kinds are welcome and celebrated. It is a community, and communities are stronger together. 

Please support this amazing organization, even if it’s just by reading a little more about it and getting a sense of what this work looks like when it is successful—the community it creates is admirable and strong and I’ve learned so much from them. ASC will be doing Thanksgiving and holiday fundraising drives and their 40th anniversary is coming up, so there are plenty of ways to support and get involved.

For many of you, it may make more sense to support organizations in your own communities. Please do! You can start your search by checking out the list of organizations who have helped us give out copies of Good and Cheap in their community.

Or if you are looking for a national place to support, you can do no better than the No Kid Hungry Campaign.

It is a privilege to be able to turn to these organizations to help us heal, to help us express love as much and as often as we can.

There are so many organizations out there doing great work. If you know of one or work for one please share it in the comments below.

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