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Giving thanks during a pandemic

As with most families, this year's thanksgiving celebration was different. While humans are hardwired to avoid change, stick with tradition, seek the familiar, sometimes change is just what one needs. Our family of three celebrated with good food, good spirits and style. Sonja set and decorated the table with a centerpiece of a ceramic cornucopia and bundles of dried thyme and oregano. She used the fancier silverware and autumn colored tent folded napkins. I decided to change up the Tday recipes and focus on something Sonja would love and that I never make - Baked Mac and Cheese! And Alton Brown's recipe with slight alterations did not disappoint. Often these types of dishes are dense but this one had the slightest soufflé like lift with all the richness of the roux, cheese and sourdough breadcrumb topping. After being gifted a boatload of mustard greens from Suzanna, I decided to search for a recipe and landed on a garlic ginger sauce (soy, mirin, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil) with mushrooms, that came out delicious. Instead of the regular mashed potatoes, I went with a Moroccan potato casserole which included sauteed onions, garlic and tumeric! Carl made his special cranberry sauce, we had to stick with one tradition, with a secret ingredient that always reminds us of my dad, Grand Manier. While none of the dishes really went together, they worked together, felt indulgent and it was a wonderful feast. After a nice walk along the road in the dark, we returned for tea and dessert. Thank goodness my mom made me an extra gluten free pound cake a few weeks back, that I froze and defrosted for this meal, since the wildberry pie that I bought was awful. We all agreed to toss it in the compost. The pound cake was decorated with slices of persimmon (thanks to Elisa, and her friend Gail) and it was the perfect closer to the meal! So while it was just the three of us at the table and the dishes were unfamiliar, it felt like friends and family had contributed and therefore were touching in with their presence. The evening got a little rocky as we pulled out a board game, the Settlers of Catan, and tried to learn the rules and set up to play. But as we began playing, the laughter and warmth returned and we all loved it! We closed the evening with a poignant and painful movie, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It made me shutter from my depths, there were moments where I felt I was going to fall apart, sob. But I didn't. My daughter comforted me. What gratefulness is there to feel after watching this movie, seeing through the eyes of a black man in America and coming to an even deeper understanding of his reality? I am grateful for the language and intellect, the capacity he has to tell this story, his story and that of the collective experience. Grateful that progress is possible, that change while slow and painful and discouraging at times, does happen. And I am hopeful that I can play a part in that change.

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