Friday, November 18, 2011

Being Thankful

A few days ago I read a post by Jennifer Perillo, who writes In Jennie's Kitchen. If you read lots of food blogs, you've probably heard Jennie's story; this past August, her husband died unexpectedly from a heart attack, and she quickly became a single mother to her two young daughters. It's a heartbreaking story, and though I'd never read her blog before, I began to after that. I'm not sure why I did, but in the past three months I've grown to look forward to her posts. They're filled with raw emotion; she doesn't sugarcoat anything; to be honest, some of the posts can be downright difficult to get through. The compassion, the pain, and the emotion you feel for this distant stranger can be pretty startling.

Anyway, this past week Jennie posted about being thankful for everything she has in her life, and she encouraged her readers to do the same this Thanksgiving. "Take a moment and think about everything that you feel fortunate for in your life," writes Jennie. "Then, think about the millions of voids that will be on Thanksgiving tables around the country."

In our family, we like to go around the table and each say what we are thankful for. It's pretty cheesy, yes, but it does allow us to reflect on everything we have. Usually, I say something like "I'm so grateful for all the delicious food we're about to eat," which is the truth. But my response never really delves deeper than that.

I don't often reflect on all the blessings in my life. I have so many. My education. My family and friends. A warm bed to sleep in at night. It can be really easy to turn these wonderful things around, though.

Classes are too hard. 

Too much family time. 

Why do I have to get out of bed so early? 

I've thought all of these things before. Actually, I've probably thought all of them in the past week (especially the first and last).

A few days ago I was in a real panic to decide what to make for dessert for Thanksgiving. I'd really wanted to make the brown butter tarts that I'd had as my birthday "cake," but I wasn't getting a response from the pastry chef at the restaurant where they're made. So I was frantically searching for an alternative. Will pie be too hard? Is crisp too boring? Are two springform pan desserts too similar? It was a whirlwind of self-inflicted stress.

And then I stopped searching for a while. Why was I making such a big deal about this Thanksgiving dessert? How was this in the spirit of Thanksgiving at all? How many people across America would gladly take any Thanksgiving dessert, be it pie, cake, fruit, or otherwise? How many people across America wouldn't even be partaking in a Thanksgiving feast? How many people around the world wouldn't be able to spend the day with their family? It was humbling to think about the embarrassment of riches I take for granted, to shift my perspective just a tad and realize how fortunate I am to consider my second dessert problem a problem at all.

This Thanksgiving will be a strange one at our home. For the first time, it will be only my parents and me, as my sister can't make the trip from Los Angeles to Atlanta. It will be a quiet day, for sure, but it won't make me love Thanksgiving any less.

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. I love the food, of course. The week-plus of leftovers that ensue. I love the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and learning how to make carrot ring alongside my mom. And watching all the Friends Thanksgiving episodes and casually viewing the football games and seeing Miracle on 34th Street for the first time this holiday season. And taking a walk in the crisp morning before hunkering down in the kitchen. Having a peaceful and conversation-filled meal with my family. Staying at home. These are only some of the things I'm thankful for this year. They may seem little, but together they make Thanksgiving what it is, small memories I'll take with me in a few years when I have my own Thanksgiving dinner and begin to form my own traditions.
Last Thanksgiving I invited my Chinese roommate Chen to our home for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful experience for both of us: Chen got to experience "real American Thanksgiving food" and I got to show it to her. Undoubtedly it's a Thanksgiving I won't soon forget.

As next Thursday approaches, I want to know: what are you thankful for? 


  1. This post made me feel...really proud of you. And thankful to have you in my life. Thankful for the joys a wonderful sister like you brings me, and thankful for how you inspire me to be better. I love you.

  2. oh I am so proud of you! thankful to have you and katie and your dad in my life. thankful to be doing things I love every day. and sharing my passion with others. simply thankful!

  3. very good perspective on being thankful-i'm very thankful for my family-especially my extended family who have always been ver supportive. good health, a job and a home.

  4. awww, really sweet post, sara. :) i'm thankful for the three Fs: family, friends (both online and offline!), and food.

  5. This post was super charming; love the photo of the both of you at the end with the grand Thanksgiving feast! Hope you enjoyed your holidays!!