It’s times like these we’re all tempted to wax poetic. Thanksgiving dinner lingers in our tastebuds’ memory and in our refrigerators, and hopefully, the holiday’s eponymous focus on giving thanks sticks around even longer than the aroma of those garlicky mashed potatoes.
While your family may or may not have gone around the table naming things for which you’re thankful, maybe gratitude at least flitted through your mind in between frantically whisking the gravy and checking on the turkey.
Thankfulness is something I both take for granted and don’t take for granted. Remembering to be grateful is a crucial part of my lifestyle, and often it just flows through me. At the same time, there are many, many instances requiring a very intentional decision to focus on the blessing aspect — and also many times that I abjectly fail, whether consciously or subconsciously.
Sometimes, it is a little difficult to be thankful for Midwestern produce options this time of year. While we could all live on pumpkin spice if necessary, there may be times you find yourself daydreaming of thick-walled peppers, tender lettuce, juicy watermelon.
But there are still options, and their relative scarcity makes them even more satisfying, if you can focus on what we have rather than what we don’t. Root vegetables and winter squashes are so much better than nothing.
My mom enjoys recounting a certain supper from her childhood, for which my grandma had prepared mashed turnips. No one, including herself, actually liked them, but they were there and needed to be eaten. Clever as she was, she placed the bowl of fluffy white on the table sans description, letting her children assume what they would.
Thrilled at the sight of mashed potatoes, my uncle helped himself to a healthy portion. Shocked and appalled upon discovery of the vegetable deception, he surreptitiously transferred the majority of his portion onto grandma’s plate whenever she turned away. Poor woman: I can only assume she wondered why she had subjected herself to so many turnips, as she bravely slogged through them.
Gratitude was far from my uncle’s mind — and probably even my grandma’s — during those times. Does thankfulness in such little things even matter anyway? Being grateful for a gracious sales clerk or a perpetually waving neighbor isn’t a big deal; appreciating the smell of fresh laundry or a crisp of a perfectly toasted piece of bread isn’t epic or noteworthy.
Or is it?
Get in the habit of being thankful for the itty-bitty things right alongside the big things, and pretty soon they’ll start to feel epic.
I’m really thankful my landlord planted some ground-cover turnips and daikons, and is letting me pull some. It’s great to see those green tops amidst the browning landscape, those purple turnip crowns cresting just through the surface of the soil.
See, even small-scale things like late-harvest turnips are worth giving thanks. It’s working for me.
And lots of butter helps every time.
Amanda Miller writes a column about local foods and homegrown cooking for The Hutchinson News. She teaches classes at Apron Strings and makes cheese at her family’s dairy farm near Pleasantview. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.