Friday, November 28, 2008


like a lot of people, we spent the day yesterday in the kitchen preparing food and then some more time at a big table eating it. Delightful. Thanksgiving is really my favorite holiday. Mostly because it is about family and food and booze, which are my three favorite things. I like that there is a minimal "product" aspect to it as a holiday, there is no expectation that there will be presents, there are no television events except the Macy's parade, really. The only expectation is that we will all be in the kitchen, making things that smell good, and then we will move to the table, which will be laid with a little formality, and we will each intone the things for which we are thankful, and then we will tuck in.

I like to have a little formality, which will not surprise you. Makes it seem like an event, a Thing That is Important. And honestly, living as we do so far from some of our family, having them here is an event. And to be celebrating this very American holiday with them is a good thing, and special, and a little formality is appropriate.

Spending the whole day making with them is a rare and beauitiful thing. As I have said and written elsewhere, I believe there is no fundamental difference between different types of making. They are all attempts to communicate, they are all creative acts, whether it is a furniture object or a relationship, a crocheted hat or a meal, an essay on a blog or a song or anything else. All comes from the same place, the same wellspring. So we spent the day making and then eating what we made. Cosied up in a house filled with smells and tastes and stories and wine and beer. And a lot of the food was served in pottery that my mom made, so my family was here a little, too.
My contribution was the rolls. These are the rolls that my mom made every year, twice a year. Cresecent rools, "Butterhorns" the cookbook calls them. I am pretty comfortable making a lot of different things, but I get easily flustered when confronted with baking. It is such an exact science, baking, and shrouded in mystery so I have do concentrate a lot when I do it. Which is twice a year. But I love using my hands in ways to which they are unaccustomed, and there is something so very vital about making bread. Stuff of life. The physicality of kneading the dough, the waiting for it to rise, all of this is a calming process and so steeped in ritual that I can not help but love it.
When I was at my second college, the art school, and living alone in an apartment and generally expected to take care of myself, there was one summer that I made bread every Saturday. I would mix the ingredients and set it to rise, and then put on my straw hat and light a big cigar, and go for a walk for an hour and smoke and enjoy the summer afternoon. Then I would come back and have a little wine and punch down the dough and make it into loaves and set it to rise again and take a nap for a half an hour. When I woke up, I put the bread in and started supper, and that was my ritual for Saturdays. And at the end I had bread for a week and had had a nice contemplative cigar and life was good.
My rituals have changed a lot since I was twenty one. That is a good thing. But I was kneading the dough yesterday and my mind was cast back to those lazy afternoons, and to what I was thinking about then and I raised my glass to twenty-one-year-old Zeke. He was on to something, I think.

This year, I am thankful for family. I am thankful for friends. And I am thankful that past events have led me to here. It is a good place to be.

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