season of gratitude

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I am grateful that I did not grow up in the way. We weren’t shooed out from under our parents’ feet in the kitchen, or shushed when singing at the top of our lungs, or anything else but encouraged when bouncing off the furniture and hurdling around the house, feet-first through the kitchen cabinets. My parents embraced the messy life of having four children: they opted for antique and rustic vibes to offset new scratches and nothing was too precious or valuable or could not survive the permanent fixture of greasy fingerprints.

We didn’t grow up too much in the way of tradition, either. And where they did exist, we learned to let them go when the time was right. It’s how I’m able to be here now, in California, set on the idea that this is the new normal. Christmas will be here this year, and we may ache to find some semblance of holiday spirit without the snow. I’ve already felt it: I will be stuffing envelopes and stamping letters at my new job, when suddenly I am overcome with holiday cheer.  Like someone in a far corner office is jingling bells, or any minute now the carolers will show up in the lobby.

My life seemingly runs on nostalgia. When the main reason I tear up at the beginning of the Gilmore Girls revival series is the collective longing for a story to continue… that, to me, is effervescence; it’s timelessness and collectivity and universal experience. The way we revel in the pseudo-friendships with our celebrity storytellers and then with each other upon realizing that everyone else is doing the same.

My world was rocked earlier this month. Maybe yours was too. That we were not as in sync as we felt. That we’re not as progressive as we see ourselves. That we still live in a world where grossly inappropriate and illegal behavior is overshadowed by unyielding competition in polarization. That our response to fear could be throwing fire on voodoo dolls. Some (Voldemort) would have us think: “There is no good and evil. There is only power, and those too weak to seek it.” But I strongly believe that when our decisions are made out of fear (fear of being overtaken by foreign residents, fear of other people’s religion, fear of losing money, fear of harm, etc.), we turn our back on the good of the earth and the rest of mankind, and our actions become the opposite of good. I don’t know if it’s always evil, but it’s in the way of human progress.

There is much to be grateful for during this season of gratitude. I will never not put my family at the top of that list. Though it may look like I am leading the way, the lessons I have learned from them and the personalities they boast steer me exactly where I am supposed to go.

Believe me, I am incredibly curious what my business is here in small-town California. Why am I not taking advantage of a fancy and eclectic urban sprawl? Why am I hunting down community in the middle of nowhere? I don’t know what the plans are, but what I have discovered about this whole adventure is to not get so in the way of my own life and just live; stop holding my breath and just breathe.

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It’s decidedly somewhat of a tradition now to seek nature on Thanksgiving.  At least, it was for us the last couple years.  Now it appears there’s a movement which puts people in the way of tall, snow-capped mountains rather than mountains of things (see: Tracy Chapman).  I LOVE IT.  Below, a recap of our day exploring hot springs, wind caves, and stairway-to-heaven beachfront before cooking up an easy (two-hour prep, tops) whole foods, good clean fun dinner.  The food is at the bottom. (Sorry.)

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A (mostly) vegan + gluten-free Thanksgiving meal, clockwise from the left:

Biscuits, cornbread casserole*, sweet potato casserole, rosemary mashed potatoes, Jared’s fried turkey slices + gravy, brussels sprouts + cranberries + yams, green bean casserole topped with cornflakes

*Adapted: homemade cornbread mix, coconut milk instead of sour cream.  I also went through the trouble of cooking fresh non-GMO corn and creaming half for the recipe.  Effort was minimal.

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Not your grandma’s Thanksgiving pies:

Pecan pie filling (no corn syrup) from here.  Pumpkin pie filling (no condensed milk) from here.  On GF graham cracker crust.

These were the best Best BEST!  Esp. the pecan pie on a graham cracker crust: “accidentally” candied pecans, which look black and burned but taste like sweet bliss, held together with a sturdy, barely-there custard and stacked up against a crispy baked graham cracker crust.  You will eat this for breakfast.

Pumpkin puree instructions for making your own can be found here.  

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Jared’s leftovers; and he really did fit green bean casserole and cornbread on pieces of bread.

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