I meant to post yesterday, and I meant to take pictures to show all of the wonderful food we ate, and the amazing friends who came to share Thanksgiving with us, but I was so busy cooking and eating that food and enjoying those friends, that the pictures didn't happen, alas.
It was a lovely day, though. On Wednesday night, Rick and the girls helped me to make an apple pie and a walnut tart (we have to have three desserts every year: walnut tart because I love it so, apple pie because no holiday is a holiday for Rick without one and because he says he loves my apples pies and I'm a sucker for flattery, and pumpkin pie because it's Thanksgiving and we're not complete traditionless heathens), and the cornbread for the stuffing. Then on Thursday we cleaned the house (our poor vacuum gets a bit overwhelmed with all of the oos from the pets that it's responsible for cleaning up on days like this), and I cooked. And cooked. And cooked. Sausage, leek, and mushroom cornbread stuffing, the turkey, butternut squash, and mashed potatoes. Zucchini with bay leaves. I have two friends who come every year -- one of them has an eastern European Jewish background and brings stuffed cabbage; the other is from Bombay and brings cranberry chutney (I tell you, I hated cranberry relish until she came and brought this the first time -- I LOVE this stuff!). Layers of food traditions on the table. We also had a family of friends over and they brought salad and pumpkin pie. All in all, we were well taken care of. My table just barely seated the 12 of us, so we were all very friendly. I hauled out our good china, which was my mother and father's wedding set, and which I loved throughout childhood, and which they therefore gave us when we got married. It glowed against the newly-waxed pine of our old farmhouse table.
I have long ago removed the whole pilgrim/Squanto hideousness from Thanksgiving (and spend every year unbrainwashing the girls when they have to hear it at school), which leaves me with my favorite holiday of the year, one which is about feeling thankful for what we've got, and which ties in to every harvest celebration humanity has ever had.
I feel about cooking very much the same way that I do about knitting. It ties me in to traditions and histories that are larger than myself. Standing at my stove, cooking stuffing and smelling the turkey roasting, I feel connected to generations of people who, at this time of year, looked around at the stores that were going to keep winter's wolves from the door, and said "let's make us a feast", and they roasted and stuffed and baked and stewed. I often wonder at this deep connection to tradition and to family history, given that I am adopted. It's not something I think about often, in spite of the fact that people throughout my life have, at one time or another, tried to insist that I must feel cut off from my past and history, that I must feel abandoned in some way, because of it. I have considered carefully whether I am hiding this from myself, but what I really feel is that, far from being abandoned, I was chosen, and in the end, the history of my parents is mine, too. I grew up with the results, both good and bad, of their personal histories, no-one else's, and so those histories are mine and have made me what I am today. When I had Older Daughter, far from feeling some deep sense of betrayal that someone could have given me up when I was a baby like her (as a friend of mine insisted that I should feel), I felt instead a renewed sense of amazement that my mother had had less than 24 hours' notice that I was coming along; can you imagine? I was barely prepared for having a baby, and I'd had over 9 months' notice -- 24 hours' would've killed me!
I thought about much of this as I cooked, and realized that for me (and speaking only for me), this is part of the reason why I've not taken the logical next step in my desire to eat closer to home, in the sense of using up fewer resources in eating, by becoming a vegetarian, instead of limited myself to free-range. When I cook sausage for stuffing, I don't see (as my vegetarian friends tell me they do) some disgusting byproducts from some poor animal stuffed into further disgusting byproducts (although I can understand how it's possible to see that, no matter how free-range the animal was), but an ingenious human response to the desire to waste no precious resources. I know that this doesn't mean that I need to eat sausage, as I have far more resources than my ancestors, but cooking as they did sometimes reminds me of why they did it, and I feel connected to those reasons. When I make french onion soup, something which so many people think of as elegant or fancy, all I can think is that it is the ultimate it's-winter-and-I'm-running-out-of-food meal. I mean, you take a beef bone, and maybe a bit of some wine and make stock, then use onions -- the ultimate wintering-over root vegetable -- in a bit of whatever fat you've got around, some stale bread, and the tail ends of cheese, and you've got a meal. How creative is that? I can imagine a mother at the end of a long day, looking around a bare kitchen and thinking, NOW what do I do? I know exactly how that feels.
So, I am thankful to have those connections, reaching in all directions: back in time, towards my family and my ancestors; forward in time, towards my daughters, who are building their own memories of family traditions in our Thanksgivings; out, to my friends who come to build those traditions with us, year after year, and to all those parents who have come home at the end of a long day and have cooked dinner for their families, and who have found a reason to celebrate as the dark nights of winter close in; to all of you who are kind enough to read what I write and to send me comments and emails to let me know that you're thinking about me. How lucky am I?
Today has been a day to sit and contemplate that feeling of thankfulness, with my husband and daughters safe and healthy at home with me, and my house clean and smelling good. I went to yoga this morning, and then came home and knitted. I'm almost done with the smaller feather motifs on Simurgh, and might be able to start the pinfeathers edging tonight (the joy of leftovers means no cooking for a night, and you can't tell me that every parent, ever, through the history of the world hasn't felt that joy!). Then I can go back and unpick my provisional cast-on (it's my first, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed here) and start the second half.
I've also been (re)reading the next book for my book club: The Bone People. I haven't read this book in ages, and, while it's always been on my top-ten list, I had forgotten just how many things I love about this book. I love the writing style, I love the characters, I love their complexity and the lack of easy answers, I love the hope even amidst the despair. It's an amazing book. Have any of you read it? I'd love to hear what you think, too.
There's also some knitting reading going on (the other day, Rick came in the house and said to me, "some yarn porn came for you in the mail" and handed me the KnitPicks catalogue. That man makes me laugh), but I'll tell you all about that (and the yarn purchase I made today in an effort to support the sagging U.S. economy -- we all have to do our parts!) later this weekend. For now, it's time to finish this last repeat before everyone gets home from piano lessons. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!