Thanksgiving Heresy

Our list of Thanksgiving guests sounds like the beginning of a joke: A college roommate from Berkeley, a big bank executive and a little old Austrian lady raised by nuns are sitting at the dinner table …

This gathering is no Norman Rockwell painting. It’s a potluck of dishes and people. Over the years, our meals have included German nut cake, Kentucky cornbread and Iraqi hummus. Conversation has ranged from the mundane — sharing recipes ± to group re-education about the true causes of the world’s problems.

But, one thing has always been agreed upon — the Golden Rule of Thanksgiving: Eat until you are stuffed.

Then came the heretics hailing from New York.

When my husband’s twin brother Chris and his wife Suzanne moved to Woodstock, they brought with them a blasphemous new tradition: the Thanksgiving Day post-feast walk. In this bizarre family custom, one may eat as much as usual, but woe to he who dares engorge himself — for hark! Shortly after dinner, you will leave the table for a many-mile trek.

The punishment for not completing this Trail of Tears is the revocation of dessert privileges (previously known as “dessert rights”).

SACRILEGE. Why would you spoil a perfectly good, gluttonous holiday with the heresy of a healthy walk?

To understand these heathen motivations, you must know that my sister-in-law Suzanne is the epitome of discipline, mentally tough and physically fit, with notches in her belt (which settles below her flat stomach) that include not only several marathons and a healthy diet, but also teaching awards and a Ph.D. in progress.

When someone like that proposes a new Thanksgiving tradition, you approach with caution. Indeed, about half the Thanksgiving crowd of 20 declined. But the rest of the group, after a short period of post-dinner sluggishness, decided to give it a try.

An essential element to the Thanksgiving walk is that it be close by. Casual, not a big production. Our house is on the edge of the Corps of Engineers property surrounding Lake Allatoona. We enlisted the aid of my son Tyler to help navigate the unmarked trails that wind in and out of the hills between house and lake.

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Properly invigorated, we came back just in time for dessert. And, in truth, the walk has proved to be not a heresy, but a wonderful new rite. It feels healthy — with the dual benefit of making room for additional dessert gluttony after a big meal.

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