The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving: Empty bellies, empty hearts

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Food is a major part of every American holiday.

As soon as we open all the gifts we’ll later have to return, we sit down to a bounteous dinner every Christmas, once we get all the used wrapping paper off the dining room table. We eat, drink and make merry every New Year’s Eve, then the next day we consume black-eyed peas for luck (and a little hair of the dog to keep our heads from pounding so much). After rounding up all the eggs, we chow down on ham and marshmallow Peeps at Easter.

Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day are known for picnics and barbecues. And the primary purpose of Halloween is to wear a mask and extort candy from our neighbors, for crying out loud.

But food positively dominates Thanksgiving.

Of course, that’s the day we annually pause to thank the Lord for not giving us what we deserve, but we do so immediately before gorging ourselves on an abundant feast.

How abundant? The website caloriecount.com says the average American will consume 3,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day.

Given that the average daily caloric intake for an American adult is nearly 1,000 calories below that, it’s a wonder the world doesn’t tilt on its axis every Black Friday.

In all, the website reports, 690 million pounds of turkey are served each Thanksgiving, which equals the weight of the entire population of Singapore — people, not turkeys.

In addition, Americans chase their Thanksgiving bird with 50 million pumpkin pies and 750 million pounds of cranberries.

A whopping 88 percent of Americans will eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

Ingesting anything else on Turkey Day seems vaguely un-American, in fact (with all due respect to our vegan friends who will spend the day noshing tofurkey or somesuch).

 Americans not only will eat a lot of food on Thanksgiving Day, but we will waste a bunch of it, too. The Natural Resources Defense Council reports Americans will trash some 204 million pounds of turkey this Thanksgiving. What ever happened to leftover turkey sandwiches, turkey casserole, turkey tarts, turkey pot pie and turkey surprise?

Perhaps we could use the fowl about to be discarded to solve yet another national problem — does anybody have a recipe for turkey Twinkies? I thought not.

But many people would count themselves fortunate to have turkey Twinkies, Spam, ramen noodles, Vienna sausages, baloney, a hot dog or pork and beans for their Thanksgiving meal — because many more will have nothing to eat at all.

As you belly up to your holiday table — replete with a golden bird, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, creamed corn, crescent rolls and any other side dishes that are a tradition in your family, topped off by a delectable variety of pies — count your blessings.

Millions of people around the world and across this nation, and thousands more right here in Enid, will not be nearly so fortunate.

Around the world, some 870 million people do not have enough to eat.

Of course, we know there are a lot of hungry people in the world, we’ve seen the terrible pictures of children with bulging bellies and hollow eyes on the news. We feel bad about it, but those people live half a world away.

In truth, they just might live right next door.

More than 14 percent of American households, encompassing some 49 million Americans, struggle to put food on the table. Those households where there is never enough to eat include 16.2 million children among their ranks.

The reasons for hunger are as varied as the people it affects — unemployment, underemployment, health issues, change in marital status, disability and advancing age, among others.

Fortunately, there are programs designed to help mitigate hunger in America. Locally, there are agencies like Our Daily Bread, Horn of Plenty, the Salvation Army and Shepherd’s Cupboard that help fill empty bellies.

But plenty of hearts will be empty this Thanksgiving, as well. Holidays are hard on those who have to spend it alone.

If you know someone who doesn’t have a place to go this Thanksgiving, open your home, extend a hand. You don’t know what kind of difference you might make.

If you can spend Thanksgiving sharing the day, and the giblet gravy, with your family (even strange old Uncle Fred), consider yourself richly blessed.

Contrary to popular belief, the key words every Thanksgiving Day are not “pass the pie,” “pass the remote,” or even “pass the Tums,” they are “thank you.”

Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for reading.



Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.