A year ago, we decided to compile a list of all the things we're thankful for. It turned out to be a lot easier than we thought, and we ended up with 33 things on our list.
There's always bad news: about the sorry state of the economy and high unemployment, about families coping with the aftermath of natural disasters, and about all the things we should be doing on social media that we have absolutely no interest in doing. That's all the more reason to give thanks for all the bounty that we do have.
Here's our list of more than a few things that we're grateful for, beyond our wonderful families, close friends, and tell-it-like-it-is colleagues. We hope they inspire you to take a moment and think about all the things you’re thankful for as well.
1. A walk on the beach, listening to the surf.
2. My talking Siamese cat, Nora, who is the first to greet me when I walk in the door after a long day at work. When I say, “Hi, I’m home,” she answers by saying “Mom!” I am not kidding.
3. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong singing Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off and a host of other fabulous tunes in The Complete Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, which features the fabulous jazz duo’s duets between 1956 and 1957.
4. These scones. I know it’s not even Thanksgiving, but it feels like I’ve brought these scones to three bake sales already this year. I substitute 1/3 c chocolate chips and 1/3 c dried cranberries for the currants and cut the dough into pie slices rather than using a cookie cutter. Otherwise, I just do what Martha says.
I've always paid lip service to the importance of role models for young girls. But never having had a role model myself, I didn't understand their real impact until my 10-year-old daughter opened my eyes.
A few weeks ago, she brought home a collection of biographical essays called Rebel in a Dress: Adventurers by Sylvia Branzei, creator of the popular Grossology series. Branzei's eclectic and unique collection of 12 adventurers includes dog sled racer Susan Butcher, professional race car driver Janet Guthrie and aviator Bessie Coleman. After a quick glance at the cover, I asked my daughter why she had picked this particular book.
"It's full of stories about interesting ladies," she explained, and then sat down to read. About 30 minutes later, she came running up to me. "Mom! Mom! There's a lady in this book that climbed up Mount Everest and then skied down it!"
That hit me like a brick. Not only did I know that said "lady" was ski mountaineer Kit Deslauriers, who has climbed and skied the top summits of all seven continents, but I had interviewed and written a short piece about her for Redbook magazine back in 2006.
It was my daughter's next statement that really got me. "I want to set a world record Mom," she said. And there it was: role modeling in action.
There are so many women like Deslauriers who are far from household names. Their stories are amazing and, clearly, inspiring, but it takes a chance choice of a book for girls to learn about them. Thank goodness for writers like Branzei who make those books available. I reached out to Branzei to learn more about the motivation behind her book, how she decided which women to include, and to let her know that she'd touched the life of at least one young reader.
“If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not hungry”
-- many, many grandmothers, via author Michael Pollan in Food Rules
“When I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”
It’s the one that got away. And it’s not a man, a job, or even a pair of shoes. It’s a book.
I don’t remember the title. I found it in Kitchen Arts and Letters, a bookstore that, as far as I was concerned, single-handedly redeemed New York’s Upper East Side. The store was devoted entirely to books about food and cooking, and in it I found a smallish hardcover published in the beginning of the last century by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was a catalog, about two inches thick, of every variety of apple then grown in New York state, complete with color illustrations and the thin tissue pages that once protected them. It was $200.
I was smitten. I was also working as a photo assistant, and I didn’t have health insurance, never mind $200.
My guess is that the book no longer exists. I’m sure some enterprising dealer sliced the colored plates out of it, framed them individually, and that they’re now hanging in various bathrooms--not mine--across the tri-state area.
But if I can’t have beautiful antiquarian color plates of apples, I can still relish the real thing. Here's why really, apples are the perfect food.
My mother taught me how to make meatballs and lasagna. My mother-in-law taught me the secret of her Bolognese sauce. But it was Marcella Hazan who taught me how to make tortellini.
Hazan, who journeyed to New York from her native Italy in 1955, was horrified by the food in the U.S. “She was a newlywed who did not speak English, transplanted to a country whose knowledge of her native cuisine was not much more than spaghetti covered with what, to her, tasted like overly spiced ketchup,” the New York Times wrote after Hazan’s death on Sept. 29 at the age of 89. “The culture shock nearly crushed her. She was appalled by canned peas, hamburgers and coffee she once described as tasting no better than the water she used to wash out her own coffeepot at home. At her first Thanksgiving meal, she nearly gagged on the cranberry sauce.”
A biologist by training, Hazan taught herself to cook for her new husband, who came home every day for lunch throughout their entire married life. Better yet, she authored cookbooks that paid homage to the food of her homeland. The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating did for Italian cooking in the U.S. what Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking accomplished: got Americans cooking authentic, great tasting food. Hazan offered easy-to-follow explanations on how to make everything from antipasto to zabaglione. That's why my well-worn copy opens automatically to the pages that show how to properly fold sheets of homemade pasta into tortellini.
A friend recently invited me to join her for a performance of “In Friendship,” a series of short stories by the late nineteenth century writer Zona Gale. My friend included a link to a review of the San Francisco-based theater group Word for Word's performance. The review mentioned that, in 1921, Gale was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
I had never heard of Gale, and knew nothing of her place in drama history. Curiosity piqued, I searched out Gale online. First stop was a list of winners of the Drama Pulitzer. There she was, sandwiched between two Eugene O’Neill wins, in 1920 and 1922. Second stop was a Wikipedia pagewith about 300 words on her life and lists of her novels, plays and short story collections. A little more digging led me to a 1940 biography by August Derleth titled Still Small Voice: The Biography of Zona Gale.
Still more digging uncovered a book of literary criticism, Not In Sisterhood, by Deborah Lindsay Williams, focusing on the friendship and long correspondence between Gale and her contemporaries Willa Cather and Edith Wharton. In addition to sharing editors and publishers, these three women published in the same magazines and won the same awards -- in fact, all three won Pulitzers.
One thing Cather and Wharton didn't share was Gale's outspoken feminism, socialist politics and her frequent involvement in progressive movements, from pacifism and racial equality to labor rights and ethnic tolerance.
Gale doesn't sound like a woman with a "still small voice" to me.