This week my attention has been drawn to other things, beyond the latest medical research, plant-based recipes, the new statin guidelines debate, the longevity benefits of exercise, sleep or nuts!
Let's talk about the REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF.
As Canadian food writer Corey Mintz's so aptly states in his pre-Thanksgiving New York Times essay:
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In the End: It's NOT About the Food!
To be fair, Mintz isn't talking about food & health or diet & heart disease. He's talking about hospitality and making our guests feel welcome and appreciated. If you invite folks into your home to break bread--you'll want to read Mintz's wise advice, here.
He's on to something.
In the end, it's not about the food.
"If I were to offer Thanksgiving advice, it wouldn’t be about what kind of bird to buy or which dessert to bake. It would be to remember that you are hosting a version of a dinner party, and that the same etiquette — taking your guests’ coats and getting them a drink, making them feel comfortable, feeding them in a timely manner, serving food with confidence and ending the evening on a high note — is just as appreciated by your family as by anyone else you would bring to your table. Maybe more.
The focus should be on making your guests feel good. At Thanksgiving, you have two advantages: knowing everyone pretty well and the theme of expressing gratitude.
It’s a good time to tell your sister not just that she looks great with bangs, but also that you appreciate her watching the kids. (Me: Hey sis & sis-in-law, I REALLY do love your bangs/hair style, all your helpful advice, & how nice you are to my kids & grandkids. And you both know I love you.)
Bottom line: make people feel welcome, appreciated and a little special.
[And for guests who are not family], what they need, what we all need, is to feel special, rather than ignored in favor of food that should have been prepped in advance as much as possible. Ask them about school. Give them a kitchen task. Remind them that they’re part of the family.
The care that you show for people in the first moments of their arrival in your home will set the mood for the afternoon or evening.
I hope my approach to hosting doesn’t come across as didactic or officious. It’s all intended toward a singular goal: making sure that other people have a good time. I don’t care if you put your elbows on the table. I care only that you are happy.
“A desire to serve,” [according to] Charles MacPherson, the operator of a Toronto butler academy, “is the ability to be able to give yourself to someone else to try to make their life better. That doesn’t mean subservient. We all serve in some way.”
The dinner party is an opportunity to serve your friends, if only for one evening. Holidays are a chance to do that for your family."
And the warm welcoming hosts of our first ever "Israeli Haitian Croatian Thanksgivukkah" would have made Corey Mintz proud. We really did feel just like one of the family, welcomed & special, even though we had only just met our hosts less than a week before. Of course, it helped that we share a very close mutual friend and we already knew a lot about each other before ever meeting!
Just to be clear: Everyone of my family & friends are extraordinarily welcoming hosts! It's just this was the FIRST TIME we've ever gone to a "just-met" friend's house for a family celebration & their hospitality, generosity, & warmth knocked our socks off!
Pause on the Thanksgivukkah Story. You'll have to wait a little to find out how we came to spend Thanksgiving with brand new friends.
Speaking of THE REALLY Important People in Our Lives
The Grands with Their "So Cool Contigo Water Bottles" - A Perfect Gift from My Boss to Them
STORYCORPS' 10 Year Anniversary! Stories About the Most Important People In Our Lives
I'm betting you are all familiar with Dave Isay's StoryCorps Project. If you're not, just dive right in & prepare to cry, laugh, & have your heart cracked wide open. You don't know what you've been missing.
Here's what it's all about. For over 10 years, more than 50,000 people across the country have invited the most important person in their life to join them in a StoryCorps recording booth for a 40 minute interview.
They had that once-in-a-lifetime chance to ask "their most important person" all the intimate unanswered questions they've never had an opportunity to talk about before. They also had the chance to thank them for all they've done, let them know how they've influenced their lives, or tell them how much they are loved and respected. That "special someone" can be a teacher, a friend, a parent, a neighbor, a boss, a clergyperson, a spouse, anyone!
StoryCorp is about ordinary people speaking with honest emotion & making magic happen when they share what's in heart. And for those of us who get to listen to these shared stories, it's as StoryCorps creator Dave Isay says:
"It helps us focus on what's most important in our lives - on the people who are there for us in our toughest moments, or who have changed or influenced our lives. These are ordinary people who have walked the paths of decency & generosity. Their magic is in their ordinariness. They leave behind a powerful, emotional recording that passes on wisdom to their families."
When I'm lucky enough to be in the car at around 8:20 am on a Friday morning, tuned to NPR, I get a weekly "heart-opening" power booster shot from "StoryCorps".
Today was no exception. But, this time, I got to hear two. One had me weeping. One had me laughing. Laura Greenberg said, "I never knew other families peed with the door closed until I left home!" Me either. Ditto for NPR host Steve Inskeep.
If you want to listen to some of the all-time-favorite Story Corps interviews over the past 10 years, click here! Better come prepared with Kleenex. This page is a keeper!
Always a Family
If you don't see the video on your screen, click here
Always a Family: On the morning of September 11th, Michael Trinidad called his ex-wife, Monique Ferrer, from the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower to say goodbye. In the wake of his death, Monique tells the story of Michael's lasting legacy—the family they built together.
We Make a Very Odd Couple: Laura & Carl Greenberg
Mother & Daughter: Laura & Rebecca Greenberg
Father & Daughter: Rebecca & Carl Greenberg
How Our First "Home Alone" Holiday Turned into an Israeli Haitian Croatian Thanksgivukkah
Like so many of you, our family has to travel a lot to spend time together. We're spread all over the U.S. now - East coast, West coast, Southern coast & down-state. We're stuck in the middle. With well over a dozen holidays & birthdays every year, somehow, we've ALWAYS managed to spend THANKSGIVING together! But, it just wasn't going to happen this year.
We were all together in Colorado for a week in July, before Son #1, daughter-in-law #1, & the grands moved to California in August. And we were lucky enought to visit them all last month for 10 days. But, an "all in the family" Thanksgiving just wasn't in the cards this year.
Rocky Mountain National Park, July 2013
Beanie & Poppy, California, October 2013
Then, Son #2, the East coaster, opted to head West to check out his older brother's new West coast digs, visit with his California college buds, & spend time with his niece, nephew & sister-in-law.
WE WERE LEFT TO FIGURE OUT PLAN B FOR THANKSGIVING! But, no worries. We weren't feeling the least bit sorry for ourselves. Au contraire.
For so many of the other holidays during the year, our "Friends who are like Family" always get together. Many of our parents have passed away, our kids are grown & out-of-town, and travel for every holiday is just out of the question. It's not always practical or possible because of the high cost & work schedules. But, Thanksgiving has always been the exception. It's the family holiday.
But this year, frankly, we were secretly happy to have this suprise TOTALLY LAZY 5 DAY HOLIDAY on our own. No house to prepare for guests, no grocery shopping & cooking marathon to prepare for 4 days of meals + Thanksgiving, or no long 2 days of car travel on potentially icy, slippery, snowy roads. We were staying home.
This year was going to be our THANKSGIVING BYE (in sports talk)! We'd make a cozy plant-based fireside Thanksgiving Dinner for ourselves & then head to the Cedar-Lee Theater to see "The Book Thief", "The Dallas Buyer's Club", & "Philomena". Relax. Easy Peasy Thanksgiving 2013. We were "mum's the word" about our plans to avoid "sympathy invitations" - or sitting on the extra card table chairs, horning in on a friend's family celebration.
Now, Back to: How We Ended Up at an Israeli Haitian Croatian Thanksgivukkah
Beaujolais Nouveau happened last Saturday night.
That's where we met Tamar & Elon. We were both invited to this lively international potluck salsa-Afro-pop dancing celebration by our long-time friends, GeGe & ZaZa.
Tamar & Elon are newcomers to the United States - and to Thanksgiving. They are now far away from their family & friends. They're used to a full house for holidays & want their kids to experience the same lively fun "family" celebrations in their new country.
We met. We clicked. Within that first hour they invited us to their home for Thanksgiving & Chanukah. It was a no-brainer. Latkes, a menorah, & sufganiot were part of the invitation! Sold! We knew all the guests who would be coming. We were all in the same boat - living far from our families--so, why not enjoy a new tradition together! A once-in-lifetime Israeli Haitian Croatian Thanksgivukkah! And so it happened.
It was a Jeanne Marie Laskas "When in Doubt, Do the Positive Thing!" moment. I said, "Yes!" and what an excellent decision it was. Let that be a lesson to you!
Jeanne Marie Laskas' mother knows what she's talking about!
Eat dinner at home & go to 3 movies? Or join new & old friends for a Hanukkah Thanksgiving celebration?
In the February 2011 issue of Prevention Jeanne Marie Laskas shares some wisdom she learned from her mom.
"When in doubt, do the positive." This was my mother's favorite saying and a rule I live by. It's a handy one when you're faced with life's big dilemmas. Jeanne Marie Laskas
Laskas goes on to share the story of one of her life's "not-so-big dilemmas". She had a raging head cold. It was snowing to beat the band, and she was comfortably hunkered down--on the couch--in her bathrobe. She had no intentions of going out with her husband onthat night to chaperone a Valentine's Day Dance for fifth and sixth graders.
There was no way she wanted to get off that couch--and she knew that no one would blame her for staying home--but then her husband pulled that "Do the Positive" card on her,
"When in doubt, do the positive. Remember? The positive is the active thing. Can't decide whether you're qualified for that new job? Just apply. Can't decide whether to go on that first blind date after a divorce or sit home in your pajamas? Go on the date." Jeanne Marie Laskas
Of course, Laskas goes to the dance. And it looks like it's going to be one big disastrous waste of her time. The kids aren't dancing--the boys are huddled in one group, the girls in another.
"Oh, for heaven's sake," my husband says. He pulls me onto the dance floor, twirls me to the growls of Lady Gaga. The kids are laughing, but then my husband does his Travolta spin, so I do a little hustle move, and soon the girls and some of the boys are out here with us, and the silliness of this night becomes a kind of freedom for us all.
The DJ "brings it down" to "Just the Way Your Are," and for the first time in more years than I care to count, I am dancing with my husband on Valentine's Day, cheek to cheek.
"When in doubt, dance!"' Jeanne Marie Laskas
And that's exactly how the Israeli-Haitian-Croatian-American Connection got started! At the Beaujolais Nouveau Dance 2013.
The Beaujolais Nouveau - La Vie est Belle!!
It's Not About the Food!
It's About Family, Friends, & "Friends Who Are Like Family"