Food for Thought

Savoring What’s Here

Like sunlight in the quiet corners and memories of Thanksgivings past

 

By Bridgette A. Lacy

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of the holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Two angels are talking about the fictional George Bailey, a do-gooder businessman almost swindled by a competitor but saved by his community.

One angel asks what’s wrong with George. “Is he sick?”

The other responds, “No, worse. He’s discouraged.”

This has been a disheartening year.

I live alone and work from home but the coronavirus pandemic has heightened my isolation. I miss the sisterhood of my yoga classes. Going to the grocery store has become a crazy game show where you race up and down the aisles to see how fast you can get the items on your list and get out of the store. I miss the pampering of getting my hair washed, cut and styled. Not to mention pedicures.

The social isolation of not being able to hug a friend is depressing. I miss my monthly lunch outings with friends or going to hear an author reading at the local bookstore. I worry about my mother, who suffers from pre-existing health conditions. I grieve the deaths of public servants like Congressman John Lewis and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who made it their life’s work to leave the world better than they found it.

More than ever, we really need to gather around a table, hold hands and remember what we have to be thankful for. But the growing threat of the continuing spread of the coronavirus along with the flu makes us rethink how we’re going to celebrate the big feast.

The pandemic has forced me to prioritize the essentials: faith, family and friends. And of course, food.

I find myself calling on my ancestors for strength, thinking about my maternal grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and learned to depend on each other. It was also their home where I spent some of my most memorable Thanksgivings.

I am missing my grandmother, who would often be waiting on the front porch to greet us on our visits. During the warm months, she would be sitting in the green porch chair and as our station wagon pulled in front of the house, she would dance a jig to greet us.

My grandfather, whom I affectionately named Papa, prepared for our arrival with turkey, country ham, sweet potatoes and his homemade yeast rolls and coconut pies. He also stocked up on beaucoup candy and nuts for our collective sweet tooth.

I savored the time with my extended family during those luxurious meals, when aunts, uncles, cousins, as well as my parents sat at the broad square table set with my grandparents’ Noritake china with delicate pink-and-blue flowers filled to their platinum-trimmed rim. Thanksgiving was the ultimate Sunday dinner, where our bodies and spirits were nourished with good food and family stories illustrating survival and making do.

This holiday season will look different for many of us. Once again, I am reminded that Thanksgiving is about appreciating what you have, not what you have lost.

My friend, Mike, blessed me all summer with zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplant from his garden, along with jars of homemade preserves, jellies and pasta sauce. I relished creating mouthwatering salads and vegetable dishes from his bounty shared with me.

Writing buddy Frances sent me two beautiful purple batik face masks I wear all the time. We talk for an hour at least once a week about whatever new series we are watching on Netflix, like Bloodline or The Great British Baking Show. We are craving interesting storylines or pastry and bread making.

At the beginning of the pandemic, former co-worker, Lisa, met me at the farmers’ market and gave me a hundred-dollar bill to help me get by until paychecks started flowing again. We chat every couple of weeks, commiserating about our new normal and updates on finding necessities such as toilet paper and paper towels.

Like many of you, I’ve had to find new ways to share in the communal act of breaking bread and celebrating life. But in the isolation and quiet, I am hearing the birds chirp in the morning, I am taking the time to pull out my good china and sip on a cup of peppermint tea. I linger as I take in the sunlight when it hits the kitchen corner with the small bouquet of yellow-and-orange gerber daisies and roses.

This year has made me more mindful of how I spend my time. It has reminded me that our mortality is not limitless. It truly is a wonderful life. I want to use mine wisely and with great appreciation.  OH

Bridgette A. Lacy is the author of Sunday Dinner, a part of the Savor the South series by UNC Press and a finalist for the 2016 Pat Conroy Cookbook Prize. She’s an award-winning journalist with a public love affair with food and culture.

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