Experiencing Thanks(giving)

It’s almost Thanksgiving here, a holiday to celebrate the Harvest (though that has a different meaning for me this year) and give thanks for family and friends and the gifts of the year that will soon be coming to a close. The turkey has been picked up, the recipes chosen, the rest of the groceries bought (after only two trips to the grocery store), and the wine to compliment the meal was picked out days ago (a German Reisling that we couldn’t resist, and an excellent, full-flavored - but not heavy - Oregon Gamay Noir from Brick House)...and it’s about time to start cooking and baking and drinking.

This year, LB and I will hole up inside our house, alone, to spend the long weekend relaxing, lounging in front of the fire (our only source of heat) and getting to know each other again after several months of craziness, travel, obligations and extra jobs. This is a first for me. Thanksgiving has always been spent with family – whether biological or created by the people who, because of proximity or shared experiences, have become family. We’re still making a big meal (we plan to subsist on the leftovers to last us through the rest of the month), we’re still going to drink and live in the day as if we are surrounded by others, and we’ll still eat at the table and toast to living in the moment and being thankful for how far we’ve both come these last few years.

We’ll get up late (if the dogs will let us), have a simple breakfast and then start chopping vegetables, tearing bread (a big, hearty loaf of pan levain from Hideaway Bakery) for a chestnut (from our trip to Hood River), sausage (from Laughing Stock Farms) and apple dressing/stuffing, and we’ll simmer cranberries for homemade cranberry sauce (this year it’s going to be steeped in a Colorado port – from my hometown, with cinnamon and orange zest). Our turkey is brining already, in a salty concoction of coriander, juniper berries and fennel seeds, and we’ll make a lemon-herb butter to rub gently under the skin, stuffing it with lemons, red onions and herbs, and hoping to get that perfectly browned and crispy bird. We’ll start by sipping Wandering Goat coffee and as the afternoon advances, we’ll snack on Salumi salami, beautiful cheeses and roasted Oregon hazelnuts before we crack open our first bottle of wine.

All this will go on with bluegrass in the background and in the comfort of our own kitchen – no stress, no visitors, no specific time to eat, nothing but good food, wine and our dogs for company. We picked out the recipes together, a mixture of old favorites and new flavors, but if we get tired of cooking, we’ll stop and take a break...or (gasp!) even put off the meal until Friday (but that probably won't happen). If we feel like watching a movie or a football game, we will. If we want to turn the music up loud and dance, we'll dance and be silly and loud. And if the house is messy (oh, and it is), it doesn’t even matter, because there won’t be anyone else around to see it.

As much as I love a traditional Thanksgiving, surrounded by family and friends and love and the traditional fixin’s – grandma’s stuffing, can-shaped cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole - this year we’re making it whatever we want it to be, and that’s okay with me. Christmas will come in another month, and that will be my holiday to steep myself in the traditions that my family has been building for years. Thanksgiving, though, has continually evolved as I’ve gotten older, and I see more change in the years to come as it will become something new, something different – with new friends surrounding us, with new family (or “family”) members, and new local foods to grace the table. I’m curious how it will evolve and when or if it will stabilize and when I will have my own traditions.

Over time, my Eugene family has been pared down to my nearest and dearest friends, the ones I truly want to spend my extra time with, just as all friendships evolve over the years. Nevertheless, there are now new faces in my life that came in by chance and yet are carving out places in my heart quicker and deeper than I could have imagined; and already I know in my heart the handful of friends that I will carry with me from this place when I leave, as I have from all of the places I have lived since leaving home, and those I will shake hands with and leave behind – thankful that they came into my life at all, but ready to move on.

Even you, dear readers, have evolved as an important part of my Thanksgiving. Some of you have been with me since the beginning, when I started this blog two years ago, and some of you I am just beginning to know, but I am thankful for all of you. I am thankful for the place in my life that you have gently nestled your way into, and how I have come know small pieces of you by the stories and recipes you share with me, and that you have come to know me in the same way. It's a different type of friendship from that which develops by meeting someone in person. Over time, there are those of you that have stopped blogging, like I did for a while. And whatever the reason, be it busy schedules or tragedies or simply needing a break, I have found that I never stop hoping you’ll come back, that I miss hearing from you, miss knowing what is going on in your life, miss the emails back and forth.

See, dear readers, I look forward to hearing about how your Thanksgiving (or your day, if you are somewhere else in the world) went, how you are feeling today, or some tidbit from your past, and of course, your recipes. Strangely, though, I have come to realize that I don’t read your blogs strictly because of your recipes (much as I love them and use many of them); I read them to get a glimpse of you, of your world and your surroundings, of your history and your traditions, of your culture if it is different from my own. So, in a way, you are now as much a part of this holiday as both my biological and my Eugene family, and I am thankful for the hundreds of ways you have opened my eyes, challenged me, inspired me, made me laugh and made me cry. Thank you, for sharing yourself on your websites. Thank you, for coming to read what I share one mine. Thank you, for just being out there, in the world and all over the world. And thank you, for being you.

Have a wonderful, happy holiday, and a wonderful, happy day.

Other Thanksgiving posts and recipes:
2005: Rustic Porcini and Onion Stuffing
2006: Traditional Pumpkin Pie with Maple Whipped Cream

10 comments from you:

Paz said...

Happy, happy thanksgiving! I'm thankful for you and your blog.


linda said...

Happy Thanksgiving! Yours sounds ideal... That is how I plan to spend Christmas.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

And thank you Michelle for saying it so well. This is new technology and the friendships that form may be different. We call bloggers virtual friends but there is also a very real aspect. I am delighted that you are blogging again.
Hope you two are having a treat of a Thanksgiving weekend.

Shauna said...

Oh sweetie, your Thanksgiving sounds heavenly! i hope it was as relaxed and sensual as you described your hope for it.

All the best to you. I'm so happy you're back to blogging.

michelle said...

Paz, to you too! I hope yours was wonderful and I am likewise very thankful for you!

Linda, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and weekend, and I bet that Christmas will be wonderful too - we thoroughly enjoyed the time to relax and reconnect.

Tanna, yes, yes - very true. While we all may be miles (sometimes continents) apart, there is definitely a unique aspect to these friendships that develop - one that is tough to describe, but real nonetheless. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend too - I'm off to find out about yours!!

Shauna, I'm delighted to see you here - I know how crazy and busy and wonderful your life is now. It was everything I could have hoped and I hope yours was just as wonderful.

Rachael said...

Beautiful post! I hope all your plans came to fruition...


vlb5757 said...

Hey, Michelle. I am sorry I have been absent lately. I have been reading blogs, just not leaving a lot of comments. I am so glad that you are blogging again. I got your Thanksgiving E mail and tried to E mail you back and of course it didn't get through. So here's a belated Happy Thanksgiving to you and Mike! I promise to do better!

michelle said...

Rachael, Mwoah right back at you - they did, thank you :)

Vickie, my dear, don't ever be sorry! I know how busy you are and how many projects you have going all the time. You know I luv you no matter how much you read blogs or get to blog!! You can email me at mphilli4 AT uoregon DOT edu - but only if you have time!!

Dianne said...

Hi Michelle

Excellent post! I hope thanksgiving was as beautifull as you described


Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Such a beautiful and eloquent post. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Your plans sounded perfect. We had Christmas on our own once, before the children and it was really lovely.