The holiday season is upon us, despite the commercial attempts to skip both Halloween (no great loss there) and Thanksgiving this year. The garden has been put to bed and I've pulled absolutely as many leaves out of the yard as I ever intend to this year. Poke me with a fork. Of course, Thanksgiving brings up the remembrances of colonists and the profound gratitude for simple survival, which has bequeathed to us the traditional foods that represent this holiday to most Americans. These days, nothing in history is being taken for granted, but is being re-examined, rewritten, and restructured. Whatever the actual facts of the first Thanksgiving may or may not be, it is certainly appropriate to designate a time to acknowledge what we have received and be grateful for it.
We have a lot of things to be thankful for this year. The Hobbits continue to grow and thrive, to challenge and thrill us with their burgeoning personalities, skills, and reach, to amaze us with demonstrations of what they are capable of. Physical blessings and provisions above and beyond what we could have ever dreamed of asking for. A bountiful garden. Generous friends and family who love us unconditionally and forgive the hurts that closeness occasions. Deeper walks and deeper relationships. Expanding experiences and expanding borders. "He makes all things new."*
Recently, I received a phone call from a close friend. Since the inception of our multitudinous food allergies--which coincided with the unanticipated pregnancy with Princess--I've drawn in upon myself and pulled into a safe circle where I could figure out the huge confusion of what was happening to us and create a place for the Hobbits that wasn't rife with landmines. No eating out, no traveling, no socializing that involved the presence of food--too much risk of cross-contamination with my contact canaries who cop reactions from just touching the stuff. I called this period of time my "gestational hibernation." Which was pretty accurate while I was pregnant and Princess was a baby, except that now Princess is creeping up on five years old. The phone call from my friend was a wake-up call that it was time to take some baby steps out of my den. A fellowship lunch was coming up. We usually duck out before the food is served, despite Dog's protests that he'd like to stay "this once." Gently, this friend prodded me to reconsider cooking something safe for us to eat and coming along to join in the fellowship. Given our strides forward and her winsome reasoning, I relented. Unbeknownst to me, she ran interference for me with the kitchen coordinators to isolate our food to a corner of the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination on the site. We just had to show up with our food, eat, and enjoy. Blessings of the day: no later food reactions to cause regrets and a good time was had by all.
At the meal, this friend brought a ratatouille, which I'd never tried before. Since I'm impervious to contamination reactions, I taste tested the recipe and decided this was one to add to our repertoire. So in celebration of the many things that we are thankful for, it's part of this year's celebration...remembering to give thanks for friends who care enough to prod us to expand our comfort zone. Along with the Autumnal Beef Stew, per Bug's request.
Ratatouille, tweaked from Diana Rattray's about.com recipe
Olive oil, sufficient to coat vegetables
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 eggplant, cubed
4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 teaspoon dried leaf basil
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme
In a 4-quart Dutch oven or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add eggplant; stir until coated with oil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep vegetables from sticking. Add tomatoes, zucchini, and herbs; mix well. Cover and cook over low heat about 15 minutes, or until eggplant is tender but not too soft.
During the course of the year, the Hobbits and I have discussed the various and sundry holidays and their significance. We discuss the various theories about the origins of each holiday. Some holidays are rooted in things that we don't embrace, but we still choose to celebrate that day anyway because its original meaning has been lost and it has acquired a meaning that is significant for us. So whether the story of the first settlers is apocryphal or not, we have begun molding and shaping a holiday tradition that makes it uniquely ours. Each year, as we have begun adding foods back into our originally sparse and spartan menu, it has become our practice to include those foods newly re-introduced from the past year in our Thanksgiving dinner and the next new food that we intend to trial. So you can see that our Thanksgiving dinner doesn't look anything like what most folks here are eating, but it gets to the heart of what we have to be thankful for.
This year the Hobbits are singing the praises of Fage Greek Yogurt. We're trialling dairy. Cross your fingers, folks...