I always think that Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the people who have made a difference in our lives.
For me, the older -- and hopefully wiser - I get, the more potent the reflections, and the richer the crazy quilt of my life becomes. The people that wander in and out sharing pearls of wisdom are like the threads stitching the the quilt together. Each might have appeared only for a day, a week, a month or a year. Sometimes they are just characters with walk-on parts, with two or three lines that have been game changers for me, or they have guided me in the right direction when I needed it most.
Then there are the significant players, the stars in my show. I think about my father, who passed away five years ago, and his sense of family and generosity of spirit. When I was growing up, our Thanksgiving table was jam packed with family and friends -- with my grandmother, my great aunts and uncles, my great-grandfather, my great-grandmother -- every side of the family present, in all their Jewish/Italian craziness.
It was easily my favorite time of year, with SO many characters sitting at our table, like a scene out of Woody Allen movie. My father would sit at the head, I to his right. No matter what was going on at the table, my father would ring a bell to quiet the hungry crowd. Before the big Thanksgiving meal was served, he would ask everyone to hold hands in silence -- not easy for this crowd -- and reflect and express gratitude for the people and events that had an impact on our lives.
The magic and wisdom of life
I learned from my father at a very young age about the importance of reflecting, and keeping my eyes and ears open for powerful messages that come my way. Like a cab driver who picked me up when I was in Italy stranded on the island of Elba during a life sabbatical. He asked me what I was doing. I mumbled something in my piecemeal Italian that I thought was casual, and he replied, “Oh -- you’re changing your life, you’re re-writing your script.” He framed it for me. One perfect line from an Italian cab driver I was in contact with for 15 minutes.
And I learned from the lessons of my culinary elders. Whenever I’m in the zone in the kitchen I always feel that I am just one in a lineage of grandmothers behind the stove -- I’m an open vessel, channeling the wisdom of all the cooks who have come before me -- from my mother and grandmother and the multitudes of culinary wizards who have been cooking for centuries and centuries. These reflections always make me feel very grounded in the kitchen, and not alone.
When you’re making your big meal over the holidays, reflect just for a moment while you’re at the stove about all the people who have gotten you where you are -- because you stir that gratitude and wisdom into your food.
When I sit down to the table with my grandson this Thanksgiving, that’s what I’m hoping he’s feeling when he’s eating my food -- all of that magic and wisdom, stirred in with love.