Dictionaries are marvelous inventions and great places to meander and ponder. It is always interestingly informative to look up a reasonably known and well-used word and discover a nuance you hadn’t realized; a root that suddenly makes all the sense in the world; or a perspective that sheds new light. We so often interchange the words thankful and grateful that perhaps their significance loses its focus the way anything used constantly becomes taken for granted. The definitions I found for thankful and gratitude were: impressed with a sense of kindness for a benefaction received; warm, friendly feelings toward a benefactor prompting the desire to return the favor; an appreciation for good wishes or a kindly feeling; and the quality of being appreciative for a favor, that is returning and otherwise showing appreciation. Sounds delightfully simple.
Well, I am hoping to remember those definitions throughout the coming fantastically busy week. To not let the frantic-ness overshadow the concept. To take a leaf from a great nephew’s book and put it into practice. Jesse, an eight-year-old, was asked to write a letter to someone he was grateful for having in his life. Here is what he wrote:
Of all the rituals and traditions, it is the storytelling that appeals to me the most. I love to hear how the numbers in the stories grow from one year to the next. How the details become more rather than less embellished with time. After Jesse wrote his brother the letter, his Mom decided to introduce a new ritual to their Thanksgiving celebration, one that she could include far flung family in. She cut up and decorated one side of dozens of two-inch by two-inch cards. She then sent them out to everyone and asked to have the blank side completed with something for which the writer was grateful. At their dinner, all the little notes will be put into a basket. The basket will be passed repeatedly around the table, with each person taking and reading aloud one note at a time. Count me in. But next year I want cards big enough to tell of gratitudes a little more thoroughly.
Despite years of practice for Thanksgiving, there always seems to be some disaster either narrowly escaped or hilariously endured. I will be grateful to keep these to a small roar this year. My favorite hacks for this particular holiday include:
- Buy a couple of turkey wings or thighs the week before, make stock and then gravy 2 days in advance instead of when all the other last-minute things are in work.
- Cooking the stuffing in the microwave before stuffing the bird. This eliminates the undercooking concerns. Make enough cooked stuffing and fill a buttered casserole to put into the oven toward the end to reduce the impulse to overstuff the turkey.
- Use dental floss to truss the turkey. It slips out easily without tearing the skin.
- Use thermal rubber gloves to turn the turkey breast side up about half way through and then again to move the bird from roasting pan to platter. You’ve got your hands directly and firmly on the bird.
- If you get one more call telling you what yet another guest can’t/won’t eat here’s a giggle to help prevent discourtesy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TX9EAavxrus
Speaking of things people can’t eat, one area of growing concern is finding gluten-free recipes for anything in which you might have previously used wheat flour. Chestnut flour is a great substitute for the gravy. I will let you know how it works for a rolled-out pie crust. There are literally dozens of holiday recipes on the web site including: Crustless Chestnut Pie, Farro Stuffing, Stuffed Pumpkin, Cranberry Lime Salsa, Vanilla Bean Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Alabaster Turnips and Potatoes, not to mention Roast Turkey Today’s recipe is a Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.