A Very Paleo Holiday

Thanksgiving 2011 table

By Megan Flynn

A few days before Thanksgiving last year, my mother called to let me know that she had transformed her diet into one resembling that of a cave-woman. She had gone Paleo. No grains, no dairy, no sugar. And just in time for the holidays.

“So,” she said, “I’m still going to make mashed potatoes because I don’t want to push it on anyone this year, but do you really think I need to put butter and sour cream in them like I usually do?”

After trying to convince her that yes, she most certainly did need to put butter in the mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, she tried to convince me that yes, this time next year she most certainly would be making a Paleo-friendly meal for all of us, and that we were going to like it.

I was still really looking forward to going home for Thanksgiving, because who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? The food, the football, the family; it’s all good. Throw in some cocktails and the fact that my parents live on Smith Mountain Lake, and there’s really nothing else I’d rather be doing that weekend. Even if it means eating sausage and kale for breakfast in the morning.

On the day before the holiday, my family went to a shooting range and I found myself in the kitchen with nothing to keep me company but a mound of apples and even more yams, just waiting to be peeled. I was going to attempt to make a flourless, sugarless pie for my mother and anyone else who was brave enough to try it. I first made a traditional pumpkin pie, full of flour and sugar, for those of us who weren't willing to sacrifice our traditional eats for something as silly as life-long health. When that pie was in the oven, I began my challenge. And then something amazing happened: I got excited.

My skepticism and the negativity that surrounded it began to clear as I peeled the fruit and pre-heated the oven. I smiled as I rolled out the homemade pie dough, and I caught myself singing along with the radio as I cleaned up the counters and waited for my mysterious creation to bake.

The pie was terrible.

But we had a good laugh about it and my mom, who refuses to give up, swears that it makes the most perfect brunch with a side of bacon and eggs. It’s those moments—when something doesn't work and you laugh about it with the people you love the most, when the best parts of a holiday weekend are the quiet moments spent together around a table with a glass of wine—those are the things that remind us what the holidays are about. After Thanksgiving comes Christmas, and I know that when I once again return to my parents’ home, there will be no cookies set out for Santa. There will probably be no cookies at all. But I’m discovering more and more that I don’t really care.

One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that while traditions are important, the people with whom you share them are irreplaceable. And here I am, a whole year later; my own diet completely changed to resemble that of a cave-woman, and I eat sausage and kale for breakfast all the time, and that sugarless pie sounds like a perfect side dish for brunch, and I know that even though we may say that holidays are about the cookies, that’s not always exactly the truth.

So whether or not there is sugar in your coffee; even though you’re confused about the uses of coconut oil and the lack of flour in that crust, what really matters is that you've found your way home once again.