Can you smell it?
Whiffs of woodsmoke, unexpectedly. Damp skin approaching drenched from steady rainstorms. The first hints of cinnamon in the kitchen.
Nearly all the leaves on the trees have surrendered to the ground. The sky has become a flat scrim of grey. We have lived through Halloween, the time change, and the election. Instead of tricks, confusion, and divisiveness, it’s time for gratitude.
The Chef and I are grateful for so many moments of this year of birth and surprise, most of them too small and enormous to write here. Little Bean, in every moment of her life, has given us such wide-grinning joy that I don’t know how to write it. As one of our dearest friends said last night about her daughter, only four weeks younger than Little Bean, “Sometimes I love her so much that it positively hurts.”
Life has slowed down. I never knew that the greatest gratitude could come on the couch at 6:30 in the morning, the newspaper opened but still unread, little squeaks and giggles the best noise in the world. Whenever Little Bean smiles at us, we drop everything but our thankfulness.
Considering the way her life began, Little Bean’s presence in the world is all we need to feel grateful for this year.
We can think of no better way to celebrate that gratitude than with food. The long communal table, heaped high with platters of steaming food, surrounded by people who love each other? Well, we aren’t all so lucky to have that moment. That’s why, when we are in Tucson with the Chef’s parents, a few weeks from now, we’ll pause for a moment of gravity, the gratitude for the gravy even more immense.
Now, Thanksgiving actually inspires a lot of anxiety for some of us. Each year, the hits to this site start rising, about now. Every google search seems to be the same: gluten-free Thanksgiving. Gluten-free stuffing. Gluten-free pie. So many seem so eager to replicate the meal from the year before, without growing sick.
I still say the meal could use a bit of mixing up. How about homemade focaccia bread for the stuffing? Or curried red lentil puree for a pre-meal dip? Cranberries with shiso and cucumber? Why not experiment?
But you know what? Every year, even with the Chef in our lives, my family has still eaten essentially the same meal as the year before. There’s something comforting in the increasing dark and cold about eating our familiar foods.
And so, in the spirit of celebrating the familiar, I’m offering up some pieces from the past, old tried and true recipes that still work for Thanksgiving:
Some advice on how to survive this and still feel grateful, gluten-free:
And finally, if you want to throw in some food that is not so familiar, here are some suggestions of what might fill out that table:
In these next frantic weeks of the holidays approaching, I hope we can all pause to find places for which we are grateful. Me? Right now?
I’m grateful for the annoying sound of the Wii remote as the Chef plays Tiger Woods golf behind me. (Last year, I wondered why my father bought a Wii for himself. This year, I’m happy that they bought one for us.) I’m thankful for the tin whistle and Wabash washboard sounds of the Hoosier Hot Shots coming from the stereo in the corner. I feel my feet on the floor, my hair that needs washing, my stomach grumbling contentedly after breakfast. The rain has stopped, after a blast of the Pineapple Express for 24 hours. I can see. Mostly, though, I’m so filled with gratitude, like water rising up the banks of the river, for the little girl cooing on the playmat to my left, her feet constantly kicking, her fingers in her mouth, those eyes alive.
She is here, and so are we.
The meal on Thanksgiving Day is important, but the gratitude is more.
For what are you grateful this year?
Autumnal squash puree
Inspired by everyone’s comments on squash a couple of weeks ago, the Chef and I tried Delicata squash for the first time. After roasting it with a little olive oil, sea salt, and pepper — so basic — we sat down to eat. After one bite, we both looked at each other in amazement. “How have we not eaten this before?”
Since then, I have been smitten. We’ve been eating it nearly every day. Yesterday, we discovered that the combination of Delicata, butternut, and sweet potato is so potent in a puree that we’re going to be making this for Thanksgiving in a few weeks.
You might like it too.
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
½ large butternut squash, peeled and cubed, seeds removed
½ Delicata squash, peeled and cubed, seeds removed
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup olive oil
½ large onion, rough chopped
5 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 tablespoon sage, chopped
½ teaspoon rosemary, chopped
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
Put about 4 cups cold water and the salt into a large saucepan. Put in the sweet potato, butternut squash, and Delicata squash. (You should have enough water to cover the vegetables.) Bring them to a boil and let them cook until you can put a knife through the sweet potato.
Drain them. Set aside.
While the sweet potato and squashes are cooking, heat up 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and garlic. Cook on medium to low heat until they are soft. Add the sage and rosemary. Cook for one more minute.
Add the spices to the onions and herbs.
Put the vegetables and the onion mixture into a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add the butter and remaining olive oil.
Season to taste.