Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cooking Therapy

There is something in the act of cooking - especially cooking to share with others - that heals a weary soul. It hit me yesterday, as we were trying to get a head-count and dish-count for today's Thanksgiving Day meal. The act of buying the ingredients and carefully preparing our specialties (and the occasional new recipe) is a sort of holy ritual, an offering to the family, friends, and strangers who grace our table on this special day.

Ours is a pot-luck (emphasis on "luck" - luck for those of us who get to eat it) meal, with everyone bringing special casseroles, appetizers, and desserts to add to the turkey and dressing. I sometimes wonder if our 80-year-old aunt who brings deviled eggs and sweet potato casserole or the friends who bring the pumpkin pies would like to be let off the hook for a year, or forever. What if we all just went to a restaurant one year? Would it be the same?

Not for me. As I prepare my traditional dishes, I also prepare myself to share, savor, and remember the things for which I'm most thankful. It is a ritual, a liturgy of sorts, that allows me to offer just a little something of myself (and the kitchen) to those around our table. I, for one, would miss that if a stranger prepared the meal for us.

As crazy as the kitchen gets - with the oven and refrigerator opening and closing a bazillion times, dishes piling up in the sink, and last minute trips to the grocery store eating up precious time, preparing a common meal allows us all to concentrate on pulling this together one more time. You have to let go of the everyday cares and woes to make it happen. And that is a blessed thing.

On this Thanksgiving Day 2009, I'm thankful for all the loving hands and hearts who made our meal possible. I hope each of you found it as wonderfully therapeutic as I did. Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chicken Soup Kind of Day

It's steaming and bubbling on the stove as I write, the glorious smell of what happens when you combine chicken, onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, collard greens, and a dash of tumeric filling my tiny apartment. A blustery, rainy New York Saturday and the accumulation of too much life-stress begs for the curative powers of homemade chicken soup. And cornbread.

Things have been tough lately. Let's just leave it at that. With so many blessings in my life, it's silly to get down about what's swirling around me, but - hey, it happens. Two steps forward, eighteen steps back. One does tend to get discouraged, even amidst the blessings. So this weekend is the perfect opportunitiy to unplug the stress machine, relax, count blessings, watch good Thanksgiving-themed movies, and eat chicken soup with freshly-made cornbread.

I'm clawing my way toward next Friday, when I head home to Atlanta for ten days, with Thanksgiving mixed in there somewhere. I need family. I need old friends. I need some Southern. It's been six months, and I'm ready for it. And new life will be all around me, with daughter Kate 5 months along (I haven't seen her since she's been pregnant!) and niece Jessica ready to pop with baby Liliana. Yes, I need some "home."

But for today, I'll enjoy the wonderful old New York that's outside my window, a few festive films, bowls of steaming chicken soup, and several well-buttered wedges of jalapeno cornbread. 

Next up in the DVD-player: The Ice Storm, with soup and cornbread on the side.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Other Thanksgiving Day in November

A young soldier boarded the #6 train today at 68th Street heading, I suppose, to 23rd/Madison Square Park to take part in New York's Veterans Day Parade. He was wearing his camouflage gear with beret and boots, looking very, very young to me. As I worked my way toward the subway car door at the Grand Central stop, I caught his eye and said "Thank you." He smiled, nodding his "You're welcome," and I got off the train.

Today we honor our men and women who have served, and are serving, in the military. The day will be marked by parades with marching bands, phalanxes of servicepeople keeping step, and flags flying. This is fun stuff when there's not a lot of action going on in the world. It's easy to get caught up in the spectacle and patriotism.

But it's a hard time for those currently serving in the military and their families and friends. Iraq seems to be petering out, as Afghanistan heads in the other direction. Many of these young men and women are on their second and third (sometimes fourth) tour of duty, something no other generation of servicepeople has had to face. And then, last week's horrific event at Ft. Hood.

However you feel about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the men and women who serve this country deserve to be in our thoughts and prayers daily. Make a point to find out who's serving from your neighborhood or workplace. It has to be made personal on some level, or it loses meaning for us.

So look out for that soldier on the train, the sailor, marine, or national guardsman in the airport., and say thank you. Not just on Veterans Day. Every day.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

November in the Park

Happy first day of November, All Saints Day. I waited until all but a few stragglers finished the New York Marathon before venturing over to Central Park, just before sundown. Here are a few joyous photos from Harlem Meer and Conservatory Garden.

Ain't Fall grand? Welcome to November!