Part 1: A circle of thanksgiving
We stand in a circle holding hands, a tradition that evolved in my parents’ home from a combination two traditions, leftovers, if you will: grace before a meal and gratefuls during meals.
Boil these down for gumbo tomorrow.
Every link in our circle has suffered at least one wrench or break from another link in this circle. Yet, here we are. “First, we’ll take turns expressing what we’re grateful for . . . It can be anything,” to ease the younger links into the tradition.
“I’m thankful for this family . . . “
Gratitude has become a bandwagon for those anxious to reap the emotional, spiritual, as well as fiduciary benefits of thankfulness. Rewire your brain! Relieve stress. Improve sleep. Improve relationships. I ride that bandwagon. Gratitude helps me deal with leftovers of relationships, disasters, even meals.
What are we going to do with all of these potatoes?
In gratitude we push away shortcomings to focus on our strengths, we see beyond our losses to be joyful for our blessings, we displace grudges with forgiveness.
“I’m grateful for this time together . . .”
We acknowledge that, like all families, there have been unfortunate turns in our family. Ours comes back to this circle of thanksgiving, woven with the strength of our love for each other, the joy of the blessings we share, and the magic of forgiveness. And food.
Can we freeze the rest of the cranberry relish?
Thankfulness in many ways is magical. When divides —whether political, religious, social, or emotional— feel irreparably deep, gratitude for the leftover goodness mends, a circle of thankfulness bridges gaps between us.
“I’m grateful to be included in this family.”
We all have at least one thing in common, at least one thing we can be grateful for together.
How many pies?
I’m thankful for common ground.
“. . . and for the children, who are present and engaged.”
My dad closes the circle of gratitude with a prayer.
” . . . and for these blessings, we give thanks.”
We squeeze hands and chime in “Amen” before we dig in and begin creating . . . the leftovers.
Part 2: Leftovers
Stacks of dishes, naps on recliners, impossible puzzles, long walks through the fields, disappointing football games, and then the question.
What should I do with this?
For those of you who tuned in for leftover recipes, here are a few ideas.
In Louisiana, we often pull the okra and sausage out of the freezer and cook up a pot of turkey gumbo on Black Friday. Online recipes for exact ingredients and measurements are plentiful. This is the basic process.
- Start with a stock.
- Boil the bones alone or with some herbs (bay leaf, oregano, for example) and vegetable scraps (onion ends and skin, a head of garlic cut down the middle).
- Make a roux.
- About 1 cup each of flour and vegetable oil for a big pot of gumbo.
- Slowly heat the flour in the pot until it becomes golden.
- Add oil and whisk until it blends smoothly with the flour.
- Continue to heat slowly until the roux is dark.
- Add vegetables.
- Add chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery (1-2 cups of each).
- Once these are soft, follow with minced garlic (4-5 cloves).
- Add the stock, leftover (and chopped) turkey, Andouille sausage medallions (Italian sausage will do), sliced okra (1-2 cups), and 2-4 tbsp of Worcester sauce (to taste).
- Season (salt, cayenne, Tabasco, black pepper) to taste.
- Bring the gumbo to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Serve with rice.
If you end up with extra dressing or stuffing, make dressing croquettes.
- Work a beaten egg into a bowl of about 3 cups of dressing.
- Form balls (slightly bigger than a golf ball).
- Optional: Fill the balls with cranberry relish or any compatible leftover.
- Poke a hole.
- Cook for about 5 minutes:
- To fry, roll in a little flour then deep fry.
- To bake, place on cooking sheets and bake at 400º.
- To air fry, place balls in Airfryer and cook at 330º.
Sweet Potato Chips
Leftover baked sweet potatoes?
- Slice the cooked sweet potatoes about ¼ inch thin.
- Season to taste (salt and cayenne or cinnamon and brown sugar).
- 300º for 10 minutes in Airfryer.
- Deep fry for 2-3 minutes.
- 400º for 10-15 minutes in the oven.
I was the last to leave my parents’, which means my mom filled my car with the leftovers she didn’t want. As I repurposed the turkey, dressing, potatoes, and relish, I reminisced about the week our family spent together. I’m grateful for that leftover lagniappe.
Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.
“You never loved me!”
I didn’t answer back. At the time, I didn’t know how. The accusation wasn’t true, yet there was some truth in it.
I had loved my ex-husband, even in that moment, but my love wasn’t that our-hearts-beat-as-one love. The soulmate, I-can’t-live-without-you “true” love.
A side note: I’m not including in this tangle of thoughts love for children or parents or pets. This is about romantic love.
You never loved me!
I felt the raw pain in his accusation. After three children and more than fifteen years of marriage, there it was, this half-truth squatting uncomfortably on the shards of our relationship.
That moment haunted me for years. The untrue truth didn’t prompt the demise of our marriage (we had other problems), yet for years, I struggled with the notion that I had a defect in my love gears that made me incapable of “true” love.
Is true love a childish fantasy or daydream? I don’t think so. I know couples who have “true” love, who feel they are soulmates. At times, I felt envious. I compared myself and wondered, “Why can’t I have that? Am I broken?”
In an effort to untangle the nature of my love mechanism and hoping to find out what was broken, I committed quite a bit of thought and energy to these questions. I looked in, but I also looked out.
Looking out, I became aware that assumptions often made about “true” love and other relationships fall apart on scrutiny. Couples who feel they are soulmates are not without their ups and downs and missteps. Even soulmates must work on right relationship. Couples who don’t fancy themselves soulmates can enjoy depth of commitment and compassion. Old solid relationships may still have embarrassing middle-school moments, and budding ones often work through hurdles with maturity and wisdom.
Looking out, I confirmed what I already knew: romantic love comes in many sizes, shapes, and tones.
Looking in, I started defining the expectations I had going into a relationship and understanding the qualities I wanted in a partner and partnership. Pretty damn practical. Share in all things domestic, complete projects together yet have projects of our own, communicate with compassion and patience, journey together and journey apart. My list did not include requisites such as “must be my soulmate” or “I would die without him.”
The observations and introspection helped me understand that I wasn’t broken at all. Perhaps I guard my heart, perhaps my love is not “true” love as conceived by many. Yet I would argue that my love is true.
Explain? OK. I love my partner of nine years. I’m still working on domestic equity, but we share, we fuss, we communicate, we have projects, we take trips, and we have independent interests and endeavors. We’re not soulmates, but our love is good. True love? I would say that my love is true, but I would hasten to point out that, if he were to die tomorrow, I would be sad, deeply sad. I would mourn and grieve. But I would not be devastated or feel lost. Is that because he’s not my soulmate? Is it because I guard my heart? I’m not sure what the answer is. I do believe, however, that the “trueness” of my love should not be measured by my dependence on the presence of that person.
For those who would accuse me of settling for a partner I can love instead of waiting for the soulmate I can’t live without, let me assure you I didn’t settle, I chose. We chose each other. That said, I’m not writing this for those doubters. I’m writing this for the other people like me, who, at some point wondered if they were getting it all wrong, if they were incapable of true love, if they were broken because they couldn’t surrender their hearts with abandon.
While we can make generalizations about love, define it, classify it, even qualify it, those intellectual exercises confuse the love we live. I don’t believe in hard edges that define where you cross into or out of true love. Instead of ideals and definitions, I would have been better served as a young adult by this kind of advice:
- Don’t chastise yourself if your love doesn’t fit a standard definition.
- Observe others in love but don’t belittle your love for being different.
- Your unique love journey should start from within, loving yourself, understanding your expectations and needs.
- Be true to yourself and your love will be true.
My ex was a little right but mostly wrong. I did love him. In some ways I still do.
In the end, no matter what size, shape, or tone, love is love. Be true to it.
Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.