This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving – it`s always in October here and, while an important time for many, it does not seem to take on the National Importance that it`s namesake does in the US. It is a holiday that is important – but I don`t know many who would fly across the country for the 3-day weekend to get back to family (thought they`d want to :)).
My family is rooted in North America – we can trace both sides of my ancestry as residents of this land before confederation occurred. This was best displayed about 4 years ago when Dana had her first chance to visit my Mothers home town (Petit-De-Grat on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia). Dana was drinking coffee with my Grandmother on her stoop:
Dana: Where is your family from?
Jeanne DArc (Joanne of Arc): What do you mean?
Dana: Where are your grandparents from?
Jeanne DArc: Well my Grandmother was born in that house (points). Pepe was born there (points)…
Dana`s jaw dropped as she was pointed to the birth houses of three generations of Acadians (including most of my Grandfathers side) without leaving her chair.
Along with a tie to the land comes a tie to it`s food. My family is rich in the traditions of local eating – fishing, some farming and growing and hunting are traditions that run strong in the family. Many of us are passionate about food – throw a pile of newspaper on a table with 40 pounds of crab and you`ll quickly see what I mean!
What does Thanksgiving mean to me these days? For the last 10 or 15 years it means a trip North. My Parents left yesterday, we`ll be heading after work on Friday night. We will be hiking, ATVing, tracking moose (the 6-day season starts the Monday following Thanksgiving) and hunting bird for our Thanksgiving dinner. Dana and my Mother do not have their licenses so they come along for the walk or ride. A successful weekend of partridge hunting (for us) would harvest 2-6 chicken-sized birds that are consumed in full.
Eating Partridge was a pivotal experience in my journey around food. I had grown up eating moose and deer – eating wild bird was something that happened later in life.
In some ways, it is difficult to comprehend that a steak actually came from the large moose that you saw on the ground. A Partridge is different – you can easily warp your head around what is on the plate and how it got there. Thinking about these things drove me away from all red meat and pork for more than 5 years (try as I might I could not go the full monty to being a proper vegetarian). When I ate my first Partridge I spent 45 minutes picking every last piece of meat off my plate – when you see a life taken (or take one) to provided sustenance for you, waste seems intolerable. I remember thinking about the amount of chicken I must have thrown out as leftovers over the years.
I also recall a Thanksgiving 3 or 4 years ago when we did not have enough birds to feed the family. We were one short on Sunday morning and had a dilemma on our hands: not enough food for the family and (at the time) there was no hunting on Sundays.
Dana was sipping coffee at the breakfast table in our cabin and talking to Dad. She was trying to understand the logic of no hunting on Sundays before a large crash stopped the conversation. A Partridge had flown into the bay window she sat in front of. The window wasn`t broken – the partridge was. He had flown into the window with such force that he broke his neck and died instantly. He solved our dilemma and I took an odd pride that evening that his natural death continued our circle of life.
These are tough topics for some to read about – I appreciate you for hanging in this far and, hopefully, keeping an open mind!