I started a new ritual this year.
Let me confess: I started a lot of things this year. I got engaged, I got married. I became a stepmother. I moved from urban Brooklyn, NY, to suburban Montclair, NJ. I went from an apartment to a house. I bought new dining room furniture, hosted dinner parties, and made new friends. I cris-crossed the continent five times, attending American food festivals and speaking with enthusiastic American home cooks.
It was a big year. I also gained 6 pounds, and let me tell you something, it wasn’t easy. I earned that weight. It’ll come off next year. That’s the thing about gaining weight; it can be lost it as soon as your make up your mind to do it.
Back to the ritual: it was a table ritual. Every night, before we eat dinner, my husband, stepdaughter and I say what we’re thankful for.
Now I didn’t grow up saying grace, and I’m somewhat sheepish to admit that this tradition didn’t come from the generosity of my heart. It came from being kind of pissed off, frankly.
You see, as I transitioned from meal prep for one to meal prep for three, I recognized that it’s hard.
I like to cook; I love to cook, it’s what I do for a living. But I became vividly aware that this cooking every night thing, that which I’ve talked about professionally for over a decade, is actually as hard as it looks.
So as I was schlepping to the grocery store, and trying to find meals that would please my newfound dining companions, and cleaning and prepping and planning, I had time to think.
I thought about hard it was, sure, but then I thought about how much easier it was now, given that I didn’t have to grow my own food or stoke the fire in the fireplace to give me heat for cooking; I flipped a switch. I started to think about all the players food system that made my hard work a lot easier.
Thanks to the farmers for growing the vegetables, and the cows, fish and chickens for gracing our table. Thanks to the truck drivers, who drive our food to the grocery store, and thank you Ray who stocks the shelves at the store and is always quick to give me a sample of his favorite fruit.
I thought about my dining partners. Thank you, Aaron and Davida for inviting me to the table.
Thanks to Kayla the dog, who is not begging at the table this night for a change. Thank you for the roof over our heads, the health of our friends, family and neighbors. Thank you to the outstanding school teachers who motivate and inspire.
Thank you, new neighbors, who have welcomed me with kindness and generosity.
Thank you, my parents who threw us one heck of a wedding this year. And thank you to every last vendor who pulled out all the stops, and gave us an outdoor wedding, on the river, without a single tent. Thank you, Mother Nature, for not raining that day.
Thank you, friends and family for coming all the way to North Carolina for our wedding.
Thank you, Wiley, for publishing my first book.
Thank you, Cooking Light for giving me the opportunity to coach 12 brave people, who have made significant changes in their eating habits this year.
The best part of this new ritual is that it’s now taken a life of it’s own. Right now it’s rare that I initiate what we’re thankful for; usually my husband or stepdaughter remembers before I do. And you don’t have to do it every night (it’s not a chore), just when you’re feeling it.
Which happens more frequently than not. Because if you give yourself a second to think about what you’re thankful for, you can always come up with something. The hard thing is turning off that faucet once you get started.
Go on, try it. You’ll see.
Thank you for reading this piece, and my blog this year. I’ve enjoyed thinking about you every time I sat down to write. Thank you for inspiring me, adding your comments, and giving me the chance. Have a wonderful holiday and an exuberant New Year.