I love Thanksgiving. I love the food and wine and DESSERTS, and getting together with family, and I’m 100% on board with taking a day to feel grateful… But I, like any student of history, don’t particularly care for the willing ignorance behind the whole Pilgrims and Indians motif. Call me Wednesday Addams, but even if members of these two groups enjoyed some kind of meal together, it doesn’t negate the government-sanctioned genocide and land theft. It just feels a little disingenuous to pretend not to know any of that, just because waffle cone teepees and pilgrim hat marshmallow cookies are both delicious and adorable.
So, if you’re looking to bring some history to your Thanksgiving table that isn’t quite so soaked in blood and tears, and also brings booze along with it, may I suggest: Beaujolais Fest! On Thursday night, Hubstep and I went to a little wine club meeting, and we learned a little bit of history while tasting many, many wines.
Back in the day, in the Beaujolais region of France (pronounced Boe-jhe-LAY), there grew a little grape known as Gamay. The Gamay grapes were thought to be less “elegant” than the Pinot Noir grown in the same region, and the nobility wanted nothing to do with them. Making wine with Gamay grapes was basically social suicide. But the workers in the fields thought the Gamay was just fine, and found that it even fermented more quickly than the other grapes. And so, a tradition began among the fieldhands, to collect and ferment the Gamay grapes for themselves. A few short weeks later, they’d celebrate the end of the harvest season by cracking open their bottles of freshly fermented wine, and getting schwasted.
As time went on, the party got more and more out of hand, and eventually it became a world-wide phenomenon and the government of France had to lay down a few rules (mostly to prevent early release of the vintage). But! The Beaujolais Nouveau wine is still made the same way (essentially using gravity, rather than a press (or feet!), to crush the grapes), the Gamay grapes are still picked by hand, and all over the world, at midnight on the third Thursday of November, the Beaujolais Nouveau wine is released, and there is much rejoicing. Beaujolais Day is a celebration of the harvest, and of the laborer who makes it possible. Those field workers used the grapes they had access to (what the nobility thought were garbage grapes), fermented them whole in barrels, and after waiting the minimum amount of time necessary for it to turn into alcohol, busted out their humble vintage, and celebrated another year of hard work, together with their friends and family. They didn’t have the fine wines and fancy parties of the lords they worked for, but they did have food, and wine, and family.
Making do with what you have, and gratitude for it. Hard work, and the satisfaction of a job well done. A table laden with the fruits of the harvest, surrounded by family. This story may be French, but all that sounds pretty damn close to what Thanksgiving, and America, are all about.
So, may I suggest bringing a little Beaujolais Nouveau to your Thanksgiving table this year. It’s fruity and surprisingly smooth for such a young wine, and it pairs really, really well with turkey and stuffing and cranberries. You can find it just about anywhere that sells wine, like the grocery store, and it’s usually priced right around $10/bottle, so it’s affordable for the working family. So, here’s to working hard, being with family, eating pie and drinking wine, and being grateful. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!