Having neither parents nor children, and siblings who live 1000 miles away, I am sometimes ambivalent about Thanksgiving; it’s simply not a family event. But I do have a family of friends to celebrate with, and there is much to be thankful for. It seems important to share a meal with others, to bring something if not many things to the table, and so we do. And it’s a pleasure.
This year I am especially struck by generosity of others, especially farmer and producers.
I just unpacked a large box that arrived from California. It was filled with Satsuma Mandarins, the very first of the season. This friend has sent us mandarins for many years. An email shows up in late November that says expect them in the next few days, and that’s it. They arrive. We eat four or five at a time so they don’t get a chance to spoil, we share them others, and we don’t get colds. They pleasure they give us is enormous.
A late freeze decimated my apple crop once again, but yesterday I made applesauce from a gift of apples that came from friends. I have made eight batches of applesauce that are now lying in snug little packets in my freezer, plus I’ve made a few tarts and galettes. A compote of dried plums rests in the refrigerator, a gift from the same couple. In my cupboard stands an elegant bottle of best balsamic vinegar I’ve ever tasted, which they also make and which I use, by the quarter teaspoon, as suggested.
Neighbors are dropping by and I’m serving them paparadelle with a ragout of grass fed beef and wild mushrooms. The beef is a gift from a rancher friend, the mushrooms from neighbors who brought them back from Italy. And, as it turns out, the tomatoes in the dish, red, dried and broken into pieces, are a gift from a friend who farms in upstate New York. He also supplied the honey that will be used in a dessert of roasted Bosc pears, a recipe of Marie Simmons from her book, A Taste of Honey, that is a great gift indeed as it has become my favored winter dessert.
At breakfast we might have toast with exquisite blackberry jam, a gift from a farmer in California, or perhaps it will be a Yuzu marmelade, an equally exquisite delight from my sister-in-law. My brother’s olive oil graces out salads. And the list goes on, back through the year— cases of endive, packages of Sonoran wheat and Purple Tibetan Barley, a dozen Gillfeather turnips, a bottle of wine. But this isn’t just about foods being given. I also feel that the foods I buy weekly at the farmers market are also gifts.
The thought of these many presents of food is humbling. The generosity of others is so big, I find myself wishing I had something that I grew enough of to gift others. (This may well become a goal to accomplish in 2015.) In the meantime, I am grateful for my friends and family for their generosity, for the hard-working producers of food and books, for good recipes, for wisdom, for foods born of hard work and sustained passion.
It’s all a gift and I will raise a special glass to all of you, strangers and friends alike, in gratitude on Thursday, this Thanksgiving.