“I can’t cook and iron napkins at the same time!” I heard myself say this a few days ago in a pre-holiday tizzy, and thought it kind of funny.
The next day, as I toured the college dining room where my students practice their culinary skills on a band of lucky clients each day, I heard something that made that quote sound downright stupid. I asked one of our “regulars” about her upcoming Thanksgiving. You know, was she cooking, going to relatives, etc? She told me that she and the three friends seated with her, all with grown kids living far from home, had anticipated an empty table last year without the kids. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, they found a shelter that needed help and volunteered for kitchen duty. It was so rewarding that they signed up to help again this year.
Later that day, a friend told me about a plumber who is spending his Thanksgiving weekend driving a boiler 500 miles to a family on hurricane-stricken Staten Island. And, since plumbers are at a premium right now, he staying on to install it for them! No charge. Talk about turning hollowness into a cup running over!
I’m sure there are countless stories that can be added to these two. Perhaps if we spent less time stressing over crease-free tablecloths and who to seat next to who without having to take away the knives, we’d enjoy the holiday more. We would truly count our blessings. We could instead remember that the true reason for the holiday, when Lincoln established it during the Civil War, was bringing people together and gratitude for a plentiful harvest.
For my part, I will stop stressing over the napkins. I will stop worrying about arrival times at the airport. I’ll hug my kids a hundred times, or at least until they tell me to stop being so mushy. And maybe, for a change, I’ll be the one to say grace. If I can do it without bursting into tears of gratitude for all my blessings.
Am including my kids’ favorite Brussels sprouts recipe. Actually, the only way they’ll eat Brussels sprouts. The trick is in the bacon: lots! I have included all the little touches that are supposed to be there, even if I don’t use them.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS GRATIN
3 pints Brussels sprouts
8 slices bacon
1 small onion, chopped (I never use it)
2 cloves garlic (I never use it)
Juice of 1 lemon (4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1-1/2 cups whipping cream (half-and-half, even the fat free kind works)
1 cup grated Swiss or fontina cheese