A Cornucopia Indeed


It’s Thanksgiving.  Thus we begin the long journey into the season of complicated emotions, otherwise known as “the holidays.”  If I were to use a Thanksgiving metaphor, I’d say we find ourselves facing a cornucopia of feelings — the joy of reunion; the ache of missing; the familiarity of old insecurities; the fatigue of caring; and of course, the gratitude for what we’ve been given.

And I am immensely grateful.  For in this abundance, I know that I am one of the lucky ones.  I am healthy.  I am loved.  That’s about all I require; the rest is just gravy (yes, a holiday pun).

In the days and weeks ahead, there will be abundance — of gatherings, of feelings, of responsibilities.  But there will not be an abundance of time.   Time, in it scarcity, always lets us down.  So live in this day, in this crazy, hectic, over-stimulated, at times disappointing and frustrating collection of moments.  For that’s all we really have.

Spiritual writer Mark Nepo, in his poem Accepting This, says the following:

There is nothing to do
and nowhere to go.
Accepting this,
we can do everything
and go anywhere.

I hope that wherever you find yourselves this holiday you feel abundantly loved and satisfied.

Thanksgiving Corn Muffins

These muffins are adapted from a recipe by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame.  She calls them “Perfect Corn Muffins” but I am choosing to ease the pressure just a bit.  Perfection is a slippery aim.  I do think you will enjoy them — Thanksgiving or any time.


2 c. yellow cornmeal, divided
1 c. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1-1/4 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt
1-1/4 c. whole milk
1 c. full-fat sour cream
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
5 tbsp. sugar
2 lg. eggs

Heat oven to 425°F (220°C). Either grease or line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with disposable liners.

Whisk 1 1/2 cups cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.  In a medium saucepan combine milk and remaining 1/2 cup cornmeal.  Cook cornmeal mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens to a batter-like consistency (i.e., the whisk will leave a clear line across the bottom of the pot that slowly fills in).  Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.

Whisk butter, then sugar, then sour cream into cooked cornmeal until combined.  At this point, the wet mixture should be cool enough that adding the eggs will not scramble them, but if it still seems too hot, let it cool for 5 minutes longer.  Whisk in eggs until combined.  Fold in flour mixture until thoroughly combined and the batter is very thick.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups; it will mound slightly above the rim.  Bake until tops are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 17 minutes.  Let muffins cool in muffin tin on wire rack for 5 minutes,  then remove muffins from tin and let cool 5 minutes longer.  Serve warm.


Gratitude and Sauerkraut


With the holidays looming, I think it is safe to say that we are all thinking about two things: food and family. Thoughts of how, when, in what way, and with whom we celebrate can be — to say the least — unnerving. The cooking is easy, albeit time-consuming, expensive, exhausting, and messy. Still, that’s the fun part. The gathering together? Well, that can be tricky.

Families are complicated, and mine is no exception. Yet we love one another, and although distance, expectations, regrets, and sometimes long simmering tensions can create uneasiness, we bring our best intentions to the holiday table. We try not to let life get in the way. In this, we do our best; it is a work in progress.

In the context of gratitude, I pledge this year to be mindful of why we come together in the first place: to reconnect, renew and remember. I will be thankful for good health and for freedom. For unconditional love, for time, and for family–those with whom I will share the feast, those who are far away, and those with us only in spirit.

My contribution to this year’s Thanksgiving meal honors my long deceased grandmother, who brought this recipe for Hungarian sauerkraut with her to the U.S. many decades ago. Its pungent yet inviting aroma appropriately reminds us that holidays are always in some measure bittersweet. And more often than not, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Nanny’s Sauerkraut

This recipe, loosely based on my Nanny Martha’s, features the basic ingredients and method found in most Hungarian sauerkraut dishes. Be generous with the paprika (sweet only) as well as the caraway. It is the combination of the two, along with the slow cook method that contributes to the earthiness of the final product. What you are looking for is a subtle blend of tangy, sweet and sour that will leave you utterly satisfied.



2 quarts canned sauerkraut
4 slices bacon, cooked and diced*
2 T canola oil
1 large onion, minced
2 T sweet paprika
Approximately 3 cups water, more as needed
1-1/2 T caraway seed
1 T sugar

*While the bacon is optional, I highly recommend using it, both for its smokiness and its fat content. Nanny used lard in her recipe, so don’t let the bacon fat scare you.

Drain the sauerkraut and set aside, reserving half the liquid from one can. In a large pot or dutch oven, cook the bacon over low-medium heat until browned and crispy. Remove the bacon, keeping the fat and drippings. Chop the bacon and set aside. Keeping a low-medium heat under the pot, add canola oil and when hot, add chopped onions and paprika. Sauté for several minutes until onions are soft. Add sauerkraut, reserved liquid, water, caraway seeds and sugar. Stir to combine thoroughly. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook slowly for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Check about halfway through cooking time to see if additional water is necessary. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream.


Marcie: Don’t feel bad, Chuck. Peppermint Patty didn’t mean all those things she said. Actually, she really likes you.
Charlie Brown: I don’t feel bad for myself, I just feel bad because I’ve ruined everyone’s Thanksgiving.
Marcie: But Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by ‘Thanksgiving,’ Charlie Brown.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, originally aired in 1973</em