(well, the cruelties inflicted on millions of turkeys, but I will save my vegetarian rant and happily eat my squash boats instead of turkey;))
I'm blessed with many happy memories—Thanksgivings at my parents' house, the little cabin up north, and my grandparents' home; a Cajun thanksgiving in the Florida panhandle; southern holidays with J and her family; and, of course, an early harvest feast last weekend with G (post pending. i promise!)
I love the rhythms of the holiday at my parents'. After breakfast, Mom and I tie on our holiday aprons (which mom made several years ago), make pies, and prepare stuffing while Dad and L go hunting. The kitchen warmth contrasts with a typical chilly, grey world outside. Grandma and Grandpa arrive shortly after the hunters return, and the guys watch the Lions win, er, lose, while we continue our kitchen deliberations and sip a little sparkling wine. After the game, the table full, the conversation lively, our hearts happy, we give thanks and eat.
This year, I was looking forward to one more typical Thanksgiving before traditions shift yet again next year...however, our table will be smaller, as Grandma and Grandpa are en route to Arkansas for my great aunt's funeral. I miss them already.
Traditions anchor us to moments. They provide a sense of history—who we are as individuals, as families. And, as life unfurls, they adapt as new roads are traveled—my aforementioned vegetarianism altering my meal, for instance—and new people—G, though he's with his family today—arrive to share in our history.
This afternoon, as candles flicker against the darkness, I'll revel in the company at the table, and also give thanks for those who aren't seated with us but are here in spirit, in our hearts.
"For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ten thirty p.m. on Thursday night. I bundle up, grab a travel mug filled with steaming earl grey tea latte, drive six blocks, and head into the chilly night.
Moms and daughters rush past me with homemade fleece blankets and folding chairs, stowing their camp-out accoutrements back in their cars.
The line snakes down the sidewalk, swollen in places with groups of ten or twelve pre-teens and teens, wrapped in Twilight blankets and wearing shirts declaring their chosen team: Edward or Jacob.
Rumors of passersby throwing eggs float along the line. Must be some teenage boys jealous of Edward Cullen's indefatigable hold over teenage girls' collective romantic dreams...
I spot my students scattered throughout the line, and join one group. Only 30 more minutes before the doors open, so we chat. Other young women wander over to say hello, share details about their lives, and wander back to their place in line.
The doors open.
The girls clap and scream.
We filter in, offering our pre-purchased tickets. I buy a small popcorn and water, and find seats for a few students and myself. We chat for an hour, my students eagerly sharing stories from their lives. So open, and so optimistic about lives so very different from mine. They juggle school, children, new relationships, part-time jobs.
The theater darkens. The previews show. The movie...
begins. Clapping. Breathy anticipation.
We wait. For him.
And there he is, in his pristine pallor, his red lips, his changeable eyes.
The movie continues, following the contours of the novel much more closely than the first iteration. Verdant northwest scenery and angsty-emo indie music seduce this viewer.
The rival appears, with shorn hair. He lifts off his shirt...
audible gasps and palpable wanting fill the theater.
The story unfolds, the viewers entranced.
A few moments before the final scene, and I know what it will be.
The romance scholar in me grins.
The scene unfolds with an unanswered question.
The audience's frustration at that ending fills the theater as the credits roll and the full house leaves a fantasy world behind.
It's 2:10 am. Colder. Quieter.
I start my car and the movie soundtrack picks up where it left off, with my favorite track: "No Sound but the Wind" by the Editors. Help me to carry the fire, we will keep the light together...it will light our way forever.
I think back to last January, when I devoured all four books in the span of three weeks. The days were long, the daylight short. The story culled forth memories of awkward teenage years, seeking—and never finding—perfect—or, for that matter, imperfect—love. Longing for something that seemed so impossible. I listened to the soundtrack obsessively. I thought of my literary crushes: Gilbert Blythe and Mr. Darcy. I dreamed, hoped, wished that this might be the year that I would find him...
And, as I settle into bed, I think of him, sleeping twenty minutes away.
Despite my unparalleled love for all things cake-ey (tall layer cakes, cupcakes, babycakes), there's something alluring about fruit desserts. They seem somehow more wholesome. Virtuous, even. Unassailably nutritious...or at least that's what I tell myself, especially when said fruit desserts feature cooked apples, which I can no longer eat raw due to allergies.
Last Wednesday night, I decided on a whim to make the crisp. The topping blended together in less than five minutes. I snagged a few apples from my mom's stockpile—an assortment of Ida Red and Jonathans. I removed a bag of Wisconsin cranberries, a treat from G's mom, from my freezer. I mixed together the fruit in the buttered pie plate, added the topping, and baked the crisp.
I love the tartness of the cranberries, the mellowness of the apples (oh, how i've missed you!), and the tangy sweetness of the dried cranberries blanketed in crunchy, spicy topping. I might play around with the amount of butter next time, and not use all the topping, in order to truly feel virtuous eating this dessert.
Thank you, Em, of The Repressed Pastry Chef, for selecting such a seasonally appropriate recipe for the TWD bakers! Check out her blog for the recipe.
At a certain point in every semester, most everyone grows weary of the relentless pace, the neverending assignments to craft and grade, the frustration with too many tasks of varying importance, the insistence on measuring time by syllabi.
Usually this weariness is compounded by seasonal woes—the everpresent grey skies of November, the lingering snow of early April.
This autumn, November is awash in sunshine, in unseasonably warm temperatures—a stretch of balmy fifty degree days! The semester ennui annoys because everything about these days, from tempered blue skies to gentle breezes to sun, glorious sun, calls me outside. Whispers, "This won't last...enjoy now."
I can almost remember those halcyon summer days when I lived purely in the moment.
And, on weekends that seem at once to stretch beyond two and a half days and to fly by, I begin to remember this other way. The bliss of a moment unfolding. The purity of full embodied mindfulness translated, magically, into a kind of self-forgetting, as the world simultaneously shrinks and expands.
Then Sunday evening descends, the work week beckons, and long goodbyes are said. I'm tempted to rush through the week, focused ever ahead, on Friday evening. On recipes to bake, laughs to share, walks to take, gasp—football to "watch."
This is no way to live 5/7 of a week. And so...I throw my whole self into my work. I make crazy gestures and silly analogies to motivate students. I dispense unconventional life advice. I share baked goods. I take time to laugh with colleagues. I try, my best, to overcome that frustration, that weariness, that ennui, by being where I am.
I drive home, after a challenging and fun day at work, determined to use the scant hour and a half of remaining daylight to power walk my neighborhood and rake the front lawn. I leave my iPod inside, listening to the zoom of passing cars, the brash voices of teenagers, the scrape of my rake. I watch the sky burn golden in the West, and fade to pastel pink in the East. I feel the seasonal chill set in as the sun melts, and wrap my scarf closely around my cold nose. I comb, I lift, I scoop piles of dead leaves into the street. I don't think of verdant blossoms nor glistening snow.
I think of here. And now. How this moment contains everything.
About a month ago, I received an email from POM Wonderful asking if I'd like to sample their product.
Having never a) tasted POM Wonderful and b) been chosen for product review, I accepted their offer.
A week later, a box with eight eight ounce bottles appeared!
A week after that, my Cooking Light magazine arrived (is anyone else extremely disappointed with the changes to this once venerable magazine? that deserves a post of its own...), with a recipe for a rosemary-syrup pom champagne cocktail.
This Saturday evening I decided to improvise. I poured about a quarter teaspoon of my favorite organic natural cane sugar in the bottom of a pink martini glass, added about one ounce of POM juice, and then filled the glass with some sparkling rose.
The color, reminiscent of the signature Sex and the City drink, brought cheer. The sweet tartness of the POM juice and the tiny bit of sugar refreshed. And, the effervescence of the sparkling wine giggled.
A fine, fine cocktail. Simple, elegant, and delicious.
Do you have any suggestions for my remaining POM juice?!?
November usually descends with grey skies. Cool temps. Naked trees. Snow flurries. Early darkness.
I usually respond to these changes with increasing gloom. Extra introversion. Hearty meals. Seasonal desserts.
I planned a weekend of baking such hearty meals and seasonal desserts, tucking into November with culinary comfort.
And then...sunshine, glorious sunshine! Unseasonably warm temperatures!
I eschewed a weekend of baking, and settled on making just one of the delicious picks for this month, the All in One Holiday Bundt Cake selected by Britin of The Nitty Britty.
Late Sunday afternoon I mixed up the cake, using canned pumpkin, a grated Ida Red apple from my mom, and a cup of local cranberries from G's mom. My two bundt pans, rose and sunflower shapes, don't seem to match the seasonality of this particular recipe, so I made two loaves instead. They baked for about 50 minutes and perfumed the house with spicy warmth.
After the loaves cooled, I topped them with the optional maple glaze and chopped pecans. G and I enjoyed thick slices with cups of hot vanilla green tea as our weekend came to a close.
Both of us were impressed by the density of the cake and the interplay of flavors. Delicious! I wrapped up a slice for G to take home, placed the partial loaf in the freezer, and set aside the other whole loaf to take to coffee hour at work tomorrow.
G raved about the cake and how the flavors improved overnight. While his direct comments are off-the-record, his overall impression of this cake is *very* favorable. A perfect autumnal cake, suitable to November days in all their manifestations.