I fuss sometimes about having to cook for the family. It isn’t something I always want to do but the necessity of eating is well necessary. As with all chores I at times when I’m tired, stressed out, don’t feel like or some other reasons will not give it my all and as a result have been known to declare cereal for supper. Normally this is because I’ve really run out of any quick and easy meals and leftovers are gone and I’m just not into cooking that night. Then I will feel guilty over this and make something considerably more nutritious regardless of how tired I am. It is an all or nothing with it seems.
In another week, my home is going to be full of family coming for Thanksgiving. It is a marathon cooking and baking time for not only the big Thanksgiving meal but all the other meals for the week as well. Plus snacks, goodies, treats and savories. I am one that completely understands when you travel that your eating habits and preferences can be different so I try to have a little variety available to help yourself when you want it. There’s nothing worse than staying with someone and going hungry because you didn’t exactly like the meal or didn’t get enough. It happens though we would never say that to our hosts. I get it though.
To prepare for all of this I create a day-by-day menu with all the things. It generates a huge grocery list of course and a couple trips or more to the store. I go over it several times to make sure I didn’t forget something because the last thing I want to do it be in a grocery store the week of Thanksgiving. I am a huge fan of the order online and go pick it up curbside. I’ll take my chances they gave me the wrong thing as a substitute than deal with some of the mayhem happening inside that store. By the weekend before people arrive, there is some mix between being Pinterest worthy and Lord Kill Me Now of a menu produced for this week of visitors.
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving I usually make a brunch complete with all the fixings and enough variety for everyone. It sets the casualness of meals in our home to help yourself. While everyone says I shouldn’t have gone through all the trouble everyone seems to be rubbing the bellies afterwards in appreciation. It makes me feel good to do it and I don’t even mind the dishes afterwards. This continues with meals through the week and enough things to compete with any five star bed and breakfast I have ever been. If someone prefers cereal it’s there but more tempting is perhaps a fresh baked muffin or breakfast savory bread.
The service I feel from making meals this holiday week, including the big turkey dinner is something I no longer stress over. I do a lot of planning for it and will try out some recipes beforehand but I don’t get worked up about it. Perhaps it’s a few years practice and I’m sure that doesn’t hurt. However, I think it is the busy process of planning it all that I like the most. It seems service I can give to others that is appreciated. I get to do something nice for someone else in my own unique way. It reminds my own family how much I normally cook for them through the rest of the year. It also serves me by reminding me of how much of a blessing it is to cook for my own family day-to-day. Don’t worry I will get over that as the feeling does ebb and flow.
Holiday cooking and baking is special though. It take this thing we do all the time, every day, and makes it bigger. The regular pancakes I make my own family through the year don’t taste any different this week but they are appreciated differently. We connect over food and conversations perhaps the same as we always do but it feels louder and more engaging. The process of making those dishes touches our hearts. It warms us in ways beyond just the heat of the oven. The special ingredients of handed down recipes for favorite dishes is more than just the taste of home. It is food of love that gives us the heart tummy connection.
Not having those to celebrate holidays with has been something I went through for many years. It was overwhelming to me at first to then have my husband’s family each year. I still don’t always love it because I learned to enjoy quieter, smaller times by myself instead. The fact I can go into my kitchen and create these incredible meals and lose myself in that process helps. Washing dishes and hearing the laughter and conversations in the next room helps me feel part of it but gives me the space I need to breathe at a distance. It helps me balance the array of emotions and trauma I have about holidays.
So while Thanksgiving and holidays in general can be tough for a lot of us, they can also be beautiful. Using the opportunity to do something of service big or small gives us that fulfillment of peace and contentment to celebrate in a meaningful way for each of us. There is no one right way to do the holidays. The natural way is to honor our own way and make room for individual needs in the process. It is also getting creative to find ways to serve others to help ourselves heal and find that warmth of the holidays.
So while I will fuss about cooking and baking, give my family cereal sometimes and even act like I’m dreading the holidays, I have found a way to make peace with them as best I can. It doesn’t mean it is always graceful but then I have come to learn most families are not perfect anyway. Finding that way to blend what we need on a small and bigger level gives us a way to make holidays what we need in them. I have found a balance between their need to get together for a week and a space for me to retain the space I need for myself. For me it is food planned, prepared and served hot..
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