Gatherings Remind Us Why Human Connections Are Truly Important
November 20, 2016 1 Comment
For example, this is the time of year when so many of us start thinking about gathering together with our friends and family. Many of us have time off from work due to holiday schedules, and that offers us the chance to travel to see loved ones, or open up our own homes to entertain guests. When I was a child, Granny would have all our relatives over, and some would even travel to Texas from places like Ohio and California, where her siblings lived. It was a chance to see cousins I rarely saw, and I looked forward to those times where family packed her little house. If the weather was warm enough we would take chairs out back and enjoy eating our turkey dinner al fresco. But most often, Gramps would turn on a game and the family would spread out through the kitchen or the living room, depending if they were sports enthusiasts or not.
When I moved to Ohio and got married, Heather and I made our fall feast an annual tradition among our friends. Even during the first year we were married and living in our tiny one bedroom apartment in Silverton, a Cincinnati suburb, we had our “family” over, all those friends we’d adopted. I remember cooking up a storm until four in the morning the night before the event, chopping shiitake mushrooms for my oyster stuffing until I was blurry eyed and Heather had passed out from exhaustion. But all that work was worth it to me when I watched more than 20 people pack our living room, just glad to be included and eating all the food we had worked so hard to prepare. Moments like that are what I have always cherished, and it always amazes us when friends still write or call to tell us that they miss those gatherings too.
Even now I have a couple turkeys, loads of cranberries, green beans and sweet potatoes on stand by, awaiting our next party. These days I spatchcock my turkey to quicken cooking time, but I also rely on other recipes repeat guests always request, including my anadama rolls, Neapolitan green beans, sweet potato spoon bread, and my favorite garnish, my alcohol-infused cranberry sunrise. So good! It makes my mouth water just to think about it. But I also love perusing cookbooks this time of year too, finding new ways to tempt my friends’ palates and grow my culinary repertoire.
Oh, and while I’m on the subject of recipes, I’ve recently tried a few you should know about. The first is king ranch chicken mac and cheese, which elevates one of my favorite comfort foods to a whole new level and turns it into a complete meal. Another food I adore is pork tenderloin. If you’re not crazy about turkey, or if you may be cooking for a smaller group than usual this year, you might want to try my pork medallions with roasted root vegetables and grapes. It is relatively easy to put together and looks simply stunning on your plate. And, if you buy a particularly large tenderloin, you might want to keep part of it to prepare fiery pork and pineapple skewers, a scrumptious and healthy dish prepared on the grill which is a recipe I modified from a cookbook I recently reviewed called The Dude Diet. They’re all tasty ways to switch up family dinner.
Aside from writing, cooking, editing and reviewing, I took a little time out of my schedule yesterday to go to the grand opening of our newly renovated public library here in town. I took my Little Brother (through Big Brothers Big Sisters) with me, and we had a fun time exploring the beautiful new building, making art in the crafts room, riding a train, visiting animals in the petting zoo, watching a balloon artist makes toy swords for the kids, and he even got his face painted like Avatar, which was cool. All in all, it was a good introduction to the library for all the families who came to check it out. It is always nice to see how vital our libraries still are to our communities, even if they’re becoming gathering places just as much as they are places to study and check out books.
Speaking of books, I’m currently reading Martin Cruz Smith‘s newest novel, The Girl from Venice. If you loved the Pulitzer prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See, you should check out this story. It is about an Italian fisherman who pulls a young Jewish girl from the water to save her from the Nazis during World War II. I simply can’t put it down and am really enjoying this first encounter with Smith’s work. I’ll definitely be reading him again and hope that you’ll give him a try too.
Until next time, I hope you have a wonderful season and are able to spend some quality time with people you love. Gathering with others is essential, whether you’re with friends and family or even feeding hungry strangers in a shelter, because it fuels the soul and reminds us of what is truly important in life: human connection. So reach out to someone, even if you think you’re not really feeling up to it. I promise you’ll feel better for it, and that connection will only enrich your life.