Thanksgiving Grace


Navigating the holidays with gratitude, compassion and generosity.


Writing by Emma Graves

Thanksgiving is promoted as a holiday that lends itself to appreciating family, eating delicious food, and enjoying great conversation. Nonetheless, sticky moments (like spoonfuls of pumpkin pie filling directly into the mouth) abound. The ladies of Brooklyn Herborium offer these time-tested methods (based on the principles of Functional Herbalism) of navigating the holidays with gratitude, compassion and generosity.

Accept Your Role in the Meal
Save yourself and those around you a lot of frustration by limiting your words and actions to your specific role in the meal.

If you are the food provider, it is your job to decide:

  • What food you are going to prepare and how you will do that.
  • Where and when you will serve it.

When you are a guest, you are the one to decide:

  • What you will eat.
  • How much of it you want.
  • How you feel about it.

When you find yourself stepping out of your role of provider or guest, ask yourself why. Remind yourself that you may be crossing a boundary that may best not be messed with. When someone else tries to overstep their positioning, use some of the ideas below to help gently (and lovingly) nudge them back into their role.

REMINDER: You are not responsible for how other people feel. Even if you think you do, you do not have that much power (for good or evil). It only hurts you to take responsibility for or try to control what you have no real say in.

“And, in addition to…”
Functional Herbalism is an “and, in addition to” paradigm. Rather than being an alternative to other types of medicine, it meets your health where you are and focuses on positive additions that allow you function better (if only slightly) each time around your healing spiral.

What does this have to do with Thanksgiving and dealing with your family? When you meet your loved ones where they are and respond with gratitude, compassion, and generosity, you can create a positive spiral that allows each individual relationship you have to function better–even if it is to simply set boundaries with those who may not exhibit the same grace that you are attempting to achieve.

When someone says something that irks us, it usually is an attempt (albeit backwards and rarely works) to make a connection with us. They want to make you a part of their infinity loop but don’t quite know how. When it is a cat-caller on the street or a stranger attempting conversation when you are not interested, you have absolutely no responsibility to make the connection. When it is a misguided family member, (even if you know that they are doing it to get your goat or have some control over you) you may want to see what could happen if you meet them where they are and respond with gratitude, compassion, and generosity.

  • Grandma: You should eat more ______  (and less ______)…
  • Grace: Thank you (gratitude) for cooking all of this wonderful food. You take very good care of the people you love and I was wondering (generosity) if I could get the recipe for ______.  When did you learn how to cook?
  • THINK: She’s looking for a way to connect to me and impart some of the important things that she has learned in her life. When somebody SHOULDS on you, it has more to do with them than you. Try compassion to keep you from getting defensive.


  • Uncle Joe: Your Aunt Joan is on this diet and she won’t quit talking about low carbs or some crap and our car is on its last miles and we have no money for Christmas gifts this year because we had to pay for extra tutoring because Jimmy is failing chemistry…
  • Grace: “I’m sorry to hear that” (compassion). You have a lot going on right now and I was curious what you have been up to? How was that Green Day Reunion Concert?
  • THINK: Sometimes, it is easy to get dragged into listening to someone else’s complaints. To limit the amount of complaining that someone heaps on you, show direct compassion and then keep up the glad tidings until you can slip away to the dessert table.


  • Cousin Ed: “I don’t see how you’re going to make a living as an (herbalist, poet, painter, beautician) I think you should ___________.
  • Grace: I hear your concern for me (meet him where he is) and I wonder where my career path is leading to as well. The only thing I can do it take it one day at a time because it is working out so far. Doesn’t the pumpkin pie look delicious?
  • THINK: He’s not making these assumptions (which may feel like accusations) because he doesn’t care…he actually cares too much (even if it is about something that’s not really his business to care about). He may not have the tools to communicate or connect with me, but I can reach into my toolbox and set limits in a kind, loving way and perhaps next year the relationship will be such that what used to feel like badgering becomes interesting, lively–perhaps even friendly–conversation!


Keeping It Between You & The Moon
Food and lifestyle tend to be dragged out on these types of occasion as a means of conversation, but they tend to be getting more and more polarizing and alienating than ever. It’s almost as though when you explain what you do and why, others get defensive if they don’t do it the same way. They have read 10,000 internet articles on why what you are saying is wrong (even if there were 20,000 more that cited studies that prove your point) and the simplest conversation starters can become arguments.

THINK: My reasons and thoughts do not need to be public for dissection. I keep my complaints and explanations between you and the moon, though I recognize that others may not extend the same courtesy.

  • Rather than saying, “I don’t wear polyester because it is an endocrine disruptor,” say, “I seem to find so many lovely things in my size in linen!”
  • Rather than saying, “I don’t drink out of plastic water bottles because they are destroying the planet” say, “I’m fine with a cup”
  • Rather than saying, “I don’t eat brown rice because no Blue Zone Traditional Diet ever utilized whole grains” say, “I just like white rice better–it feels easier to digest for me.”
  • Rather than saying, “I don’t snack because it destroys metabolic harmony and leads to all sorts of terrible problems such as PCOS, insulin resistance and adrenal fatigue,” say, “That looks delicious, I’ll put some aside to have after the turkey!”
  • Rather than saying, “I’m not eating salad because I am trying to eat locally and in season…and besides you are not getting any nutrition out of it because the cell walls aren’t broken apart,” say, “I’m saving room for brussels sprouts…and dessert…it IS a holiday after all!”
  • Rather than saying, “I cook in butter because I think it is healthier than what you are using,” say, “I looovvvve butter. I prefer the taste of butter. Butter is easy to cook with. You only live once… you might as well eat some butter!”

Someday, those critiquing your choices might come back to you and say something like, “I was just reading in TIME MAGAZINE that butter is actually healthy. I read an article on the internet that says you shouldn’t drink out of plastic water bottles. My Friend told me that drinking out of copper is very good for you. Polyester doesn’t let your skin breathe and so did you know you are BEING GOOD by wearing that linen and cotton and silk and wool? Did you know that?”

It is not your civic duty to educate your family during the holidays and you are under no obligation to offer an excuse or explanation for why you are the way you are or do the things you do.

Don’t Be Perfect.
One of the most important principles of Functional Herbalism is that when the body is functioning well, it responds to small amounts of stress (such as a yearly spring fast or autumn gorging on pumpkin pie) in a positive way by giving the body a poke that reminds it to “up its game” a bit. (Yes, the very same principle behind our Holistic Therapy for Maintaining Radiance at Every Age!)

This principle applies in full to relationships. When a relationship is strong, when you show your vulnerability and let things get a little sticky, a little bit of stress leads to the relationship “upping its game”. Letting our imperfections show allows us to remain human to those around us and perhaps give them permission to see the same in themselves. If you follow the above-mentioned principles even slightly, you are not going to mess up so bad that your family won’t take you back (even if they tease you about it for the next 7 reunions), so be calm, be cool and sweep away that which doesn’t really matter.

In Conclusion,
Do the best you can, wherever you are, with what you have…and if all else fails, here’s an olde family recipe for strawberry kava kava jello.


Strawberry Kava Kava Jellied Dessert

The night before:

Prepare Kava Kava by pouring 16 oz boiled water over 1 oz of dried herb

You can also add a tablespoon of Inner Strength Tea for it’s delicious nutritional properties

Set out overnight and strain in the morning

Leave a bag of frozen strawberries out to thaw

Make a double boiler on the stove with 2 oz water in the upper pan

Slowly stir 1 rounded tbsp gelatin powder into double boiler water while whisking

When it is really murky, add a couple of ounces of your kava brew and continue to whisk

Add entire (strained) kava brew and gelatin mix to a shallow dessert pan

Whisk in 2 tbsp (or so…) honey

Add 1-2 cups thawed strawberries and spread around evenly

Let set in refrigerator at least 1 hour.

Cut into squares and serve with love.

NOTE: Some people avoid Kava Kava for various reasons-I am in no means promoting “drugging” your family (even with herbs) without their knowledge! If you wish to avoid Kava Kava and still have a delicious, relaxing, herbal dessert, make a strong herbal infusion with Inner Strength Tea and some hibiscus flower (overnight) for the brew!


Emma and Pablo preparing pie dough


Top image: By Wolf & Co, New York-Artist-Ellen Clapsaddle (eBayfrontback) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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