I love July 4th most, as far as holidays go. After a ninety-three million mile transit, the beams of the sun beat down, friends come for an afternoon on the lake, we eat ribs and potato salad, and I'm married to a man who loves fireworks. That is almost all I need in life.
Halloween, on the other hand, does nothing for me, with the candy and costumes and chill in the air. Soon after I survive that, I start semi-resisting Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a pattern I see in myself year after year, although I am getting more used to the fact that Yes, Virginia, we do bring a live tree in the house the day after Thanksgiving every year and dress it up with lights and little trinkets. The pressure to be fancy and special and together at these soon-to-be-upon-us times of year inflict a slow leak of calm from my soul. I hold my breath to try not to deflate.
I shall cook for you any time of year, and find pleasure in the task, but at holidays I find it harder to find it fun. I will eat anybody's traditional Thanksgiving dishes with gusto, but it's a true challenge for me to find it within myself to add two sticks of butter or two cups of brown sugar (or both!) to anything. I talk myself out of preparing those savory or sweet holiday dishes but it leaves me feeling lackluster in the kitchen.
Gangbusters is what I'd prefer, so that I enter the holiday season with gusto and spirit, with something to offer guests, with something to symbolize This is more than an ordinary Thursday. At times I've searched for special holiday recipes, to create a lasting repertoire, a menu to visit again and again at the table over the years. I'll think, This is the year I'll make my own stuffing! But ultimately I am overwhelmed trying to figure out how to pick one recipe from all the options out there, as well as to ignore the voice that says Make it healthy. I'll just opt out of the hoopla, thank you very much, and do what I'm used to instead.
This means I go to Whole Foods and buy one (or two) pre-cooked ham "nuggets" and four cans of jellied cranberry sauce; get a box of Gluten-Free stuffing mix from Trader Joe's and buy rolls that don't contain eggs from Publix; make a homemade butternut squash risotto, mashed potatoes, and roasted green beans; and don't forget the sweet tea and gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. It's how our family has done Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter the past few years, and even if I think it's kind of boring, everyone in my family loves this simple, repetitive menu. They anticipate ham and rolls and sweet tea for days, so these shan't go away.
But something in me wants to make it bigger, nicer, more special, because it's "holiday." I think that maybe the sort of holiday I am on is more a holiday of doing nothing except being with my family and talking and drinking tea and eating two cookies when I usually eat none. Maybe the sort of holiday that suits us for this season is buying things from the store and making this simple tradition our treasure.
That line I love says, When the student is ready, the teacher appears. So perhaps I've not been ready for those fancy holiday recipes just yet. I know they are not the answer to having a holiday anyway. The holiday is in my heart and I want to hold it out for others. "I will go and buy food at the store and I shall cook it for you" means you can come over and we'll eat together and call it "holiday." One day, though, when the time is right, I may just find a few recipes to make these times of year a little different, even if it's a little more difficult. I think I might hear deep-fried turkey calling my name this Thanksgiving. Let's tell TJ.