An extended week of Thanksgiving left me with a full belly and, even better, a full heart. With gratitude to the many friends who included me, here are 7 lessons I treasure from the time shared with them in November. Equally applicable to whatever you may be celebrating in December, or anytime of the year.
1. SHARE THE WORK
A Monday night Friendsgiving celebration kicked things off. Brian bought a 24 lb. turkey. Deb cooked it.
The rest of us contributed appetizers, sides, and desserts and helped wash the dishes.
2. FOCUS ON MAKING ONE THING WELL
If you're in a position not to have the weight of the whole dinner on your shoulders, make something you love. In the case of our Friendsgiving dinner, I didn't want to get into debates about whether stuffing should be cooked inside or outside the bird or how whether a sweet potato dish should include marshmallows. Instead, I spent my time and energy making gravy, starting with turkey wing stock. It had been a while since I'd made a stock, and I had fun doing it.
3. PITCH IN FOR YOUR COMMUNITY
I've had two great opportunities to do this recently. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving Slow Food Cincinnati (I'm a proud board member) partnered with Gabriel's Place to create a pre-Thanksgiving dinner we called ThankFALL. Here are the only photos I managed to snap in the midst of helping to serve a full holiday meal to 200 people: Elderberry pie and pumpkin squares.
I also had fun attending the Main St. Progressive Dinner the Thursday before Thanksgiving, put on by local businesses Park + Vine, Iris Book Cafe, MOTR, Hen of the Woods, Macaron Bar, and Liberty's Bar and Bottle. Macaron Bar is opening to the public soon, and you don't want to miss the flavorful lighter-than-air macarons they're creating. Shop, and eat, local this holiday season!
4. GO OUTSIDE THE TRADITIONAL HOLIDAY BOX
After dinners three nights in a row that included turkey, I was grateful that my idiosyncratic friends Becky and John invited me to share their table. Although Thursday was officially Thanksgiving, we kept it simple and enjoyed a great leg of lamb with cauliflower mash and mushroom gravy.
5. PASS IT ON - DON'T LET FOOD GO TO WASTE
Turkey carcasses should never go to waste. When I heard my friend Jennifer would make a jook if she had a turkey to work with, I asked Deb if she would be willing to let me share the one from our Monday Friendsgiving. "Sure," Deb said. "I'm making another turkey on Thursday."
Jennifer turned it into this jook, a soup/porridge like congee, with lots and lots of condiments.
6. ACCEPT IMPROMPTU INVITATIONS
'Tis the season of hospitality. And unpredictable work schedules and family dynamics. Just say yes. It can lead you into a wonderland.
Exhibit #1: A Wednesday night invitation with friends.
Exhibit #2: A last-minute Sunday morning invite that turned out to be a killer brunch at Fifty West Brewing. Although Fifty West does brunch every Sunday, this was a special collaboration called "Southern Brewer's Brunch" with Atlanta's SweetWater Brewing and food by the chefs of The Eagle.
7. TRY SOMETHING NEW
I feel lucky that so many people shared their food, their time, and their tables with me. Some of my favorite dishes were ones I'd never tasted before, like this tiradito brought to Friendsgiving by my friend Salamon now of Chino Latino Catering.
And this Peruvian dish called Causa, by my friend Alex's mom.
However you choose to spend your holidays, treat your neighbors with kindness and share a great meal!