I celebrate the gathering of family, the reunion of loved ones. I choose the table cloth, polish the silver and wipe the crystal glasses until they shine. I light the candles and arrange the appetizers in a tempting display. I listen for the doorbell.
I remember an Advent anthem I sang in church choir, years ago. It was called Anticipation, and I cannot find the author or the composer, but the words remind me of the joyous preparation and promise of celebration.
“The sky is black; the dawn is but a promise, and here I wait, impatient for the light. My dearest friend is coming back tomorrow. Anticipation fills the endless night, and soon the sky will fill with golden sunlight. The day will break with joy beyond compare, and I will fly — I will fly — to meet him in the air.”
I look forward to celebrating the return of the sun’s light, to the reunion of parents, children, sisters, brothers and friends. May we all warm the dark nights with laughter and love, good will and good food, and remember our connection and belonging.
Thank you, Amy, for sharing a glimpse of celebration in Peru and sparking our imaginations.
What a fun challenge! Dinner, supper, the evening meal is an opportunity to establish a daily feast or celebration of sustenance, to gather your nuclear family together, share stories of the day, and unwind .
Yeah, right. I am amazed at how rushed and chaotic this time was for me when my four children were living at home and involved in extra-curricular activities!
However, they are living on their own, now. Their schedules are their own, and my schedule is that I work part-time 2 days a week and my partner works from home. I have re-claimed dinnertime for savoring food and conversation! I like to have a glass of wine or a gin cocktail or simply ginger ale with a lime wedge to wet my whistle while I prepare a meal for two in our tiny kitchen. Jazz by Chris Botti, Chet Baker, or any of the vocalists from the ’40s-’60s keeps me humming along in a great mood for evening pleasures.
My camera comes out for special dinner occasions, a new recipe or a holiday meal with family. I love the bustle of a potluck dinner with my children, and I fully acknowledge that they are better cooks than I. My mother’s dinners were elegant affairs where she was the clear Commander in Chief. (There’s one photo taken at her table – a distinct difference in style.) And I love dinner outdoors by the campfire or on the lawn of a music festival. Such a lot of delicious memories!
Moving a 20.5 lb turkey, already cooked, from my house to my son’s house 116 miles away. Hoping the bird doesn’t suffer too much in transition. I’m too involved in this project to post new photos, so here’s one of the bird we dined on last night ‘a deux’ – a pheasant courtesy my boss and his bird dog, Bhodi.
Some Thoughts on Poverty – Spiritual Lessons from Nature Series
This article appears in this month’s issue of The BeZine. To read the entire issue, click HERE.
Raising a child is not rocket science. It is more complex than that. Rocket science is merely complicated. What’s the difference? The Latin root for complicated means “folded,” like pleats. There are hidden surfaces, but you can unfold them and draw an iron straight across it. Rocket science requires a long series of problems to solve, but with enough time and effort, you can get through them all and even repeat the entire process with very similar and predictable results. (Any one with more than one kid knows this is not the case in parenting!) In the same way, you can determine which peak is the tallest one in the Appalachian Mountains. You probably can’t guess correctly just by looking out over the landscape from a single overview, but get enough people with GPS tools to climb the hundreds of peaks on the horizon and take measurements, and eventually, you can figure out which one is the tallest. Complicated, but do-able.
Complex is a whole different story. The root of that word means “inter-woven,” like a spider’s web, where each fine thread is connected to another. And they’re all sticky except for the ones the spider uses to climb directly over to her stuck prey. But can you tell which is which? Can you tell that the one you just stepped into is sending a ripple right over to where the spider is sitting? She now knows exactly where you’re stuck, but she doesn’t know that you harbor a parasite that will kill her and make its way to yet another host when yonder sparrow snaps up her dead carcass. That’s complex.
Raising a child is complex. Trying to tell which peak in the Appalachian range is the tallest is complex, too, if the landscape is dancing: changing in an unpredictable pattern , moving to the rhythm of an imperceptible music. Which peak is tallest now? And NOW? And why are we even trying to find the answer to that question while watching this mysterious dance?
Poverty is complex. It is not something that is solved by simply devoting more time and effort to the problem. If it were, we would not be looking at thousands of years of history on the subject. We give in to the temptation to simplify poverty into a matter of dollars over time, reducing it to something measurable, predictable, and controlled, a mere graphic—the poverty line. But poverty is an inter-woven network of relationships and concepts—self worth, social justice, resources and their extraction, economic policies and global politics. It is as complex as our planet’s environment.
So how do you engage with a complex issue like poverty?
Aldo Leopold arrived at a Land Ethic after years of developing and recording a relationship to a particular place in Wisconsin. In the book A Sand County Almanac, he writes: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Making personal decisions about right and wrong based on your relationship to the community is the responsibility of every individual. Applying that ethic rigorously and non-dogmatically is the work of love. How do you love your neighbor? How do you preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community on this planet of inestimable and finite resources? How do you alleviate the suffering caused by poverty? These are complex questions.
“We shall never achieve harmony with land, any more than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve, but to strive.” —Aldo Leopold
Maybe a more accessible question is this: How shall we strive to end poverty? To that question, I can imagine simple answers. Start early in your learning. Teach children about sharing and portion, not dogmatically, but in relationship. Strive toward understanding basic needs and toward a sense of what is enough. Build trust and hope and compassion. Be flexible, changing with the land and its resources. Be present with the multiple factors involved; do not look away, diminish or dismiss what is real. Be authentic and honest and diligent, and finally, believe that even on a dancing landscape, food is growing underfoot.
“When it’s cherry blossom time in Orange, New Jersey, we’ll make a peach of a pair!” (If you know me, you know that any prompt will lead to a song cue. It’s how my brain is wired, for some reason.)
Nothing rhymes with orange, but lots of my favorite things go with orange: warmth, food, Fall.
I hope your day is cozy and that you find many reasons to be glad you live in this wonderful world!
Reward? Your “just desserts”:
No more, just desserts. Have a sweet weekend!
10 Family Foods. 10 Fabulously Festive Family Foods! (Ah, ah, ah…*thunder and lightening*)
Is this a Muppet Count-down? No, not really. This is Day #2 of my mother’s birthday present. Yesterday’s post introduced the project and 10 Background Bits of my mother’s life. Today being Christmas Day, I want to tell you about my mother’s culinary talents. This is a day that we would spend feasting and in high spirits. Christmas Eve Mass having been accomplished and Mom’s choir commitment completed, she’d turn her attention to Christmas dinner. There’s so much I could write about, but I’ll keep it down to 10 things, and I’ll limit them to things that I have actually made myself. Except for this first item…
1) Fruitcake — You may shudder, but wait! My mother’s fruitcake is a triumph of dark, rum-and-brandy-soaked cake popping with candied fruits and savory nuts. The recipe is from Julia Child herself. Mom used to make it weeks ahead of Christmas in a huge, plastic tub (which later served as an infant bathtub for my baby brother), wrap it in cheesecloth, douse it with brandy and let it age. A dozen foil-wrapped parcels went out to the most appreciative friends and neighbors. Now my sister Sarah makes it, and if I’ve been good, I may get one in the mail this year, too. I have NEVER attempted this on my own. I doubt I could live up to the legacy.
2) Roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and gravy from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook — Fannie and I have become good friends, and though my original copy is pretty trashed, I am partner to a bookseller and have a few new editions at my fingertips. Yes, I can make this…and have!
3) Cran-orange relish — The recipe is on a postcard my mother sent to me when I moved back to the Midwest from California. It simply says, “1 bag cranberries, 2 navel oranges, 1 cup sugar. Grind and enjoy!” I should mention that I’m still using Grandma Marion’s food grinder from the 1940s. I’ll probably keep using it until that worn out cord and plug start a fire.
4) Pecan pie (and mince pie) — Again, from Fannie Farmer.
5) Lobster — When we lived in Massachusetts where I was born, Mom learned how to cook a live lobster. I didn’t end up cooking the first one on my own until we were living in California, and I was in college. My fiance Jim drove home from the fish market with the live lobster on his shoulder just to freak out passing motorists. I showed him how to hypnotize the lobster by holding it head down and stroking its tail. When it was limp, dropping it into the pot of boiling water (don’t forget a bit of Vermouth!) was a cinch.
6) Roast leg of lamb — Make slits in the outside and insert slivers of garlic cloves before putting it in the oven. I like rosemary and gravy more than mint sauce with it. I have a picture of myself one Christmas with a Lambchop puppet on my arm; we’re both looking aghast at the serving platter.
We can’t feast like Christmas all year long, so here are some samples of every day fare.
7) Soup — My mother kept a stock pot in her ‘fridge all week. On Wednesdays, when she’d be going out to choir practice, she’d make a batch of soup from leftovers and stock that we could eat ‘whenever’ and clean up without her supervision. To this day, she makes soup every week for the Food Pantry. Steve and I have dubbed her “Our Lady Of Perpetual Soup”.
8) Chili — The family recipe is pretty mild. Steve adds Tabasco and cheese and oyster crackers, and if I let him really indulge his Milwaukee roots, I’ll serve it on spaghetti noodles. Texas folk, please avert your eyes!
9) Chicken and rice — Basic dinner memories: the smell of onions and mushrooms sauteing in butter as the sun goes down. Add the chicken, rice and liquid to the same pot. Season with your favorite flavor combinations.
10) Brownies — Not from a box! Made by melting Baker’s chocolate and butter on a double boiler and adding it to the creamed butter and sugar. Then add the eggs and the flour and dry ingredients. Memorable mishaps: pouring hot, melted butter and chocolate into the creamed butter and sugar AFTER having added the eggs and watching bits of cooked scrambled eggs emerge. And my sister putting in half a cup of baking SODA instead of half a TEASPOON of baking POWDER. The brown, bubbly stuff spilling out of the pan and all over the oven resembled lava! Cool!
Tomorrow, for St. Stephen’s Day, 10 Musical Memories…
A poem I wrote many years ago, re-written slightly. Originally about Advent, it works well with Solstice, too.
A cold dissatisfaction oozes poison into hours
of solitary boredom that once tasted summer’s warmth
and rejoiced in sensate ponderings of heaven’s languid clime.
Now prayers lie frozen on my lips these bitter, ashen afternoons.
Glossy catalogs and magazines lie orphaned at my door,
but I will not adopt their cheer
nor bed th’insouciant whoring of our winter holy days.
So melancholy punctuates the numbing march of time
into that darkened solstice of medieval isolation —
propelled into the farthest arc, forsaken by the sun.
Thus emptied into neediness, to famine and despair,
I search the yawning pitch-smeared void
and there behold a piercing Star!
No gaily burning candle nor twinkling hearthside glow,
this is the hard-edged hopefulness forged pure and straight of cosmic might,
arising out of nothingness toward Life’s salvific land.
My soul, a silent universe,
lies naked in its beam,
a prayer more fragile and profound
than any summer dream.
For warmth and life, nothing beats baking and eating tasty treats! Steve made a Pear Rosemary quick bread the other day. It filled the house with a savory aroma of sweetness, tartness and tangy evergreen.
May your brief, sunless days be warmed with life, your long, dark nights with be warmed with love!
Yesterday was a wonderful day, a triumph of change, of many changes coming together. Thanksgiving is Steve’s favorite holiday, and what’s not to love? Fall colors, harvest time, lots of great food, a crisp chill in the air, wood smoke, and an all-pervading sense of gratitude for the process of life.
We’ve hosted Steve’s family for dinner at our place for the past 4 years. “Our Place”, however, is not just a home. It’s an online book business, which means that our inventory is stored under the same roof. That roof was replaced this year, bringing inches of old cedar pieces and dust down on top of our piles of books. It was a mess. The clean up and resorting was enormous. But Thanksgiving was the deadline: we wanted to host as usual. Piles of books, CDs, video tapes and packing materials carpeted all the rooms and stairwells in the house. We literally had to pick our way through for months. Steve took infinite trips up the narrow, steep stairs to the attic, laden with heavy boxes and stacks. But yesterday was a triumph! The place was clean, the table glistened, the food was colorfully delicious, and everyone had a great time. And Steve got to put his feet up and read aloud in Italian.
We are really getting good at team work. The next triumphant convergence will occur tomorrow, when we get together with all my children and their ‘significant otters’ for a holiday which we call ‘Galassoween’. Five couples, two generations and as many various lifestyles merge to create a feast of conversation and edible togetherness. And it will take place in the house that my daughter and her fiance have rebuilt. (see this post, “Harvesting Hope”) I’m looking forward to it! (but first, I have a lot of dishes to wash…)