In a recent conversation with a friend, I reflected on my love of cooking. I said that, if I had a free moment to relax, it would likely be with poring over a recipe or preparing a special meal. In my mind, I would conjure the process of working in my kitchen preparing something that will nurture and nourish myself and those around me. I can feel my heart open and a joyousness emerges as I think of the fireplace crackling with warmth, classical music or chants , wafting through the room, a fragrant candle with the hint of apples and pumpkin, and me, chopping and mixing up a blend of home cooked kindness. This is, in fact, how it is in my Thanksgiving kitchen.
As I set about to take various ingredients and turn them into food to offer family and guests, I never feel alone. Instead, my kitchen is surrounded by memories and traditions. It brims with remembrances of past holidays, generations of those family and friends past and present, of aromas and tables set with foods popular during the time they were offered. Food provides a sense of community (of communing together) and connecting in ways that only food can evoke.
I savor a memory of my mother baking hundreds of Christmas cookies that she gave out to eager recipients each year — everyone from family and neighbors to the post man and the man who took care of her car. My mother learned cooking, sewing, and other domestic skills from her own mother. She, in turn, taught them to her eager daughter. I knew that I was learning a skill but I was also learning a more important lesson. It was a lesson about how to share love with others. Then, as my mother reached into her late nineties and lived with my husband and me, we prepared many of those same Christmas cookies. She had grown too weak and fragile to stand at the counter, mixing heavy dough in big bowls. Under her watchful eye and taking her advice, we took the cookies from the oven and offered them to her for the true taste test. Every morsel was an act of love.
Though I did not know it then, the energy and attitude of the cook goes into the food itself. Mixing dough, mashing potatoes, making the sauces — whatever the dish — it becomes infused with the predominant attitudes of the one cooking. So cooking with attention to attitude is important. Maybe even offering a prayer or affirmation as cooking commences is a kind gesture in much the same way as offering thanks for the food set on the table.
Food and eating as a group has traditions that stretch back into the roots of our humanity and are shared in all cultures. The “communion,” in religious ritual, brings like-minded people together in praise and commonality — perhaps even in rapture. It is no mistake that food plays such a central role in all the important ceremonies of life. Think of holidays (holy days) of all persuasions, weddings, anniversaries, funerals.
So it is with much love that I approach the preparation of Thanksgiving dinner. I will offer a prayer of thanks giving for an abundant sense of love, for all in our nation, and in the world, for concern for those without family and home, for those present and past. And, especially, to my mother, in thankfulness for the lessons she taught me all those years ago and into this very day.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. You don’t even have to live in a country where Thanksgiving is celebrated each year, you can make EVERY day one of thanks giving.
With love and namaste from Deanne