Hopeful Thankful Season

‘Tis the season– the season for seeing the first dusting of snow, filling shelves with bottles of Cab & Merlot, building fires in the wood stove, and casting stitches for knitted hats, mittens and scarves. The radio stations praise jingling bells and baby boys and Black Friday enthusiasts are setting their alarm clocks across America. Reserve a turkey and plan the menu. The holiday season is here.

This year my Thanksgiving, as many in the past, will be held at my parents’ house. The morning begins with fresh coffee, breakfast bread and the low hum of parade commentary drifting into the kitchen where preparations are in full swing. As cars arrive, hugs are delivered and tinfoil dishes are slid into the oven. Tradition is butternut squash soup served in hollowed turkey-shaped dishes and Grandpa’s pumpkin pie with a healthy dollop of whipped cream. The dining party is small–five wooden chairs arranged at the table–but the quality of the company far surpasses the quantity of faces and names.

I am thankful for these people around my table and seated elsewhere throughout the world. I saver their unyielding support and generosity as I do my braised carrots and mashed potatoes, thyme and time again. Behind everything in my life that I am thankful for–my job, my home, my travels, my future– there is a friend, family member or stranger who contributed to my thanks.

Who are you thankful for?

Giving thanks often begets feelings of guilt. The Philippines will not easily recover from their country’s devastation. Wars are being fought, children shot and voices left unheard. Who am I to sit in a warm house with a full stomach and fuller heart while others struggle for so much less? But guilt does not help the world. Guilt neither feeds the hungry nor protects future generations. It is hope, not guilt, that arises from thankfulness and paves the way forward. Hope is the kindling that fuels the fire of change. Hope pulls us from our beds each morning and tucks us in every night with the promise of a new dawn.

This year on November 28th, wherever you are and whoever you are with, give thanks for all the people and moments in your life that have made you who you are today. And with this thanks find hope in things to come.

photo (13)Want to have a sustainable Thanksgiving? Check out last years blog: Giving Thanks Sustainably.

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Food Before a Storm

The month of November has arrived, quietly, like a cat on silent paws. We have survived one storm and are preparing for the next. One stole power from millions of homes, caused great destruction and left New York City under water. The other storm will make landfall on November 6th, causing just as much preparation, fierce winds and long-lasting consequences.

On Monday, all the schools closed early as western Massachusetts waited in anxious anticipation of Sandy’s fury. Those that remembered the Halloween snow storm a year ago, who had gone 10 days without power, stocked up on bottled water and spare generators. Would this storm be worse than before? 

My house had prepared too. Pots were filled with water when I arrived home and a fire was crackling in our wood stove. I started the dinner preparations and soon all of us were cutting, washing or stirring. Roasted parsnips, carrots and eggplant. Quinoa. Red wine and walnut cream roll for dessert. As the wind picked up and the rain began to beat against the house, we feasted in the warmth of our kitchen. But how were my friends closer to the storm? 

Me: Ah! I just saw that 2.2 million people lost power. Be safe!

Jen: I’m baking homemade oatmeal peanut butter cookies for the storm.

Two college friends, miles apart, were preparing for Frankenstorm in the same way–by eating. I watched recipes for soups, baked goods and cookies fly down my Twitter feed set to #sandy. Online news articles discussed the need for comfort foods before a storm. Apparently my little house wasn’t the only one stocking up by stuffing our faces.

How old is this tradition? The question brings us back to the second storm but not to foreign policy, woman’s rights or gun control. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook educates best, “Loaf cakes made with yeast were popular in New England…as far back as the early 1800’s. Election cake (also know as March Meeting Cake) was often baked on election days and allegedly sold and served only to those who voted a straight ticket. The loaf is deliciously moist and spicy.”

The Election Cake has cloves, mace, nutmeg, and hidden tastes of dried figs. On Tuesday, I plan to sink my teeth into a slice regardless of the political outcome, consequences of climate change or increased hour of daylight savings time. With such uncertainty, what else can we do but surround ourselves with friends and good food?