• Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    Giving Thanks for Many Things

    Post-Turkey Day Reflections
    I often write late at night, glass of wine nearby, listening to NPR through a headset while the other residents of the loft sleep nearby. Usually, it's Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz I listen to, sometimes other podcasts make the playlist. The other night one of these blurbs caught my eye: Umami was once again in the news. I'd recently tried the quick marinara sauce offered by Chef Silvia Bianco which incorporates one umami-rich anchovy for simmered-all-day flavor. So, I guess I had umami on the brain.

    Then, on Robert Krulwich's Science segment, I learned about Jonah Lehrer's book: Proust was a Neuroscientist on NPR on just one of these nights. Lehrer is an anomaly in today's world of specialization. Not "just" a scientist, he read Proust in the lab awaiting his experiments' transition from one stage to another. In his (unnaturally bifurcated) world of science and literature he had an epiphany: the world of literature and science is one world. It is not an "either-or" proposition. This got him thinking and we are the lucky recipients of this book, the results of a thinker (both a scientist and a lover of literature) who refused to submit to conventional thinking.

    Lehrer uses Proust, Walt Whitman, George Eliot, Paul Cezanne, Igor Stravinsky, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Wolf and August Escoffier to illustrate thinkers from various artistic disciplines who learned a truth that the science of their time denied.

    Over my annual Orphans' Thanksgiving I was sharing with friends I've known for un f* -believable numbers of years some of my new writing projects including one in sports and one in film. Joe looked at me and said "You know, that's an incredibly unusual combination of things you write about." To which I replied, "Yes, I'm just an incredibly unusual kinda girl." We all laughed, as you can with friends who know you that well, that long.

    And I am. Incredibly unusual, that is. It's just taken me all these years to figure out it's not me that's off. Too many times I've been the "square peg" gamely playing at "round hole." It's never been fun trying to convince others I was okay. If they lacked the capacity to comprehend a feminist might also wears eyeliner, or that a girl who cooks also likes football, why was it my fault? I was a lawyer comparing myself to Proust or Whitman in terms of any talent, just in terms of the certainty that I do not fit conventional molds. Another friend who joined us is my "little sister" whom I began mentoring when she was 10. Now she's an amazing, level-headed, fun and caring young woman of 27 years.

    Back to Jazz
    I heard a piece on Billie Holiday, one on Johnny Hartman, another with Diana Krall and Marian McPartland. All of these but McPartland are musicians I've loved for years, I'm glad I've 'discovered' Marian now. I was struck by the fact that Holiday, Hartman and Krall all said they were unable to sing songs that they didn't feel were reflective of them and how they feel. Constitutionally unable and unwilling. This was a another brilliant reminder of the importance of being your authentic self. In just a few segments I've heard, it's an aspect McPartland appreciates in those she interviews and plays with, too.

    Now, at this wonderful holiday, my favorite, I realize how lucky I am to have friends who are really great, smart, funny and steadfast friends. They don't care if I don't fit some conventional standard. They don't care if I don't fit my clothes from last year. They celebrate all of who I am - right here and now. I am a very lucky (if slightly rounder, slightly older) girl. Authentically me, and at last unapologetic about it.

    Thanksgiving Menus and Traditions
    Speaking of celebrating, how about the menu this year? What worked well for you this year? Did you start or continue any traditions? Try any new recipes?

    One thing new I did this year was to make dinner rolls with pumpkin. They were not like sweet muffins, just beautiful pumpkin-colored dinner rolls. And they made a delicious bread pudding today. I also used this new thing I found called a roasting wand. It heats the stuffing inside the turkey so you eliminate the problem of overcooked bird for well-cooked stuffing.

    I made some stock from turkey wings the day before. Simple to do and well worth the extra flavor dimension. The new touches will make a reappearance at next year's Procrastinators', Refugees, and Orphans' Thanksgiving.

    Note to self: get some more good jazz too.

    I'm grateful for the riches of the table, good friends, good health, a terrific husband. An unconventional life that is wholly mine, and full of thanksgiving.

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    Blogger somd said...

    A new tradition is developing at my in-laws' Thanksgiving table. A few years ago, when John (my husband, the chef) was cooking the feast for the family, he picked up an unlabeled can at that last, last-minute stop at the grocery store. After we had savored every last bite - and enjoyed the wine - John placed the can in the middle of the table and began taking bets on what was in the can. A guess was 5 cents. The first year, more than one person could choose the same "guess", and we all got one guess. So we all threw our nickels in and began shaking the can, listening for any tell-tale swish or thump. Then the can was opened, and the pot was divided between the winning guessers. The game has evolved, partly because they don't sell unlabeled or dented cans in the grocery store anymore (could someone actually be thinking in terms of food safety?!). Now someone has to buy a labeled can; this person removes the label and acts as conductor (collects the pot and takes the guesses). This year we went around the table, and once a "guess" was taken, you had to come up with an original guess. That was hard! We all thought it was either cranberry sauce or gravy, so we really had to think to come up what else it might be. Some of the guesses (and the reactions!) were quite amusing. Well, we probably went around our table of ten, more than twice and nobody had guessed correctly. The kitty was growing to a nice little pile of coins, some folks putting in their dimes or quarters to take several guesses. We finally resorted to a hint, "It was a well-recognized household name." The names flew out of everyone's mouths - Campbell's... Sara Lee... Oh! Chef Boyardee! I spouted, "Spaghetti-O's!" And that was it - a can opener did its work and there were all those little gelatinous O's in that off-red tomato sauce. I won't say victory was sweet, considering the food in question; but I did leave with a little pocket change, and lots of smiles from the fun everyone had just had. Yes, we are easily entertained. Oh, and I forgot to tell you what the game has been named - it's "You Bet Your Can!"

    7:04 PM  
    Blogger JacquelineC said...

    That's funny. I can just see you all pitching coins and making guesses. I think Spaghetti-Os might be one of the secret things that Caleb buys when I'm away...

    1:12 PM  

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