The traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner is my favorite meal of the year. My wife is a great cook, and she can make anything taste delicious, but being from Europe, she had never experienced a true Turkey Day until we met. She immediately threw on her apron.

Besides the food, the thing about this completely American holiday that I love most is that it was founded on the principle of inclusion. After the Pilgrims’ first harvest, they shared a feast with Native Americans to celebrate being alive. Not an easy thing to do back then. It was a very hard way of life.

The Thanksgiving feast is thus a reminder that time has a way of helping us forget the harshness that life can hand out, but that if memories of harder times do resurface, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes those memories can serve to remind us to not make the same mistakes and to be more grateful for what we have.

This holiday also answers one of life’s great questions: why does food always taste better when someone else cooks it for you? The answer is very simple: because the food is made with the added ingredient of love. Not that meals made with love don’t happen every day, but this day is special because of the tradition and its meaning.

Making a meal, for or with someone you love, is a heartwarming experience, and produces food for the soul as well as the body. That’s part of what makes this tradition worth putting extra energy into: there is more joy than effort in the process.

Thanksgiving dinner is not just one night—it’s also a reminder of many Thanksgivings past, the vast majority great. This holiday reminds us that life is a circle, and tough times can be part of that. It reminds us that things will get better if you just keep putting yourself and your best intentions out there.

So let’s be grateful for all that we have been through, the good and the bad. Personally, I have learned from my mistakes and look forward to a lovely dinner with those who have put up with me making them. I am so grateful that I get to share this Thanksgiving with the woman I love and some friends who care for us.

This year, I have decided to cook my special turkey divan to add to the festivities. It’s special because it’s the only real meal I know how to make (and because the first time I made it, my wife thought I’d ordered out). I won’t eat a bite of my own cooking. I love the traditional meal so much that I will save my appetite for that. I’m cooking for the people I love, and will enjoy watching them enjoy my food and thank them for allowing me to give back to them.