Uncornered Market » Thanksgiving http://uncorneredmarket.com travel wide, live deep Mon, 27 Oct 2014 16:26:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 On Gratitudehttp://uncorneredmarket.com/reflections-on-gratitude/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/reflections-on-gratitude/#comments Thu, 28 Nov 2013 18:29:59 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=14099 By Daniel Noll

In honor of giving thanks, the best of intentions underpinning the Thanksgiving holiday, I offer this reflection on gratitude — the condition, the emotion and the state of being.  Note to Thanksgiving critics, skeptics and cynics: to underscore my awareness of the historical complexity behind the holiday, I point you to this article.  Also, if […]

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By Daniel Noll

Sunset Walk at La Ventanilla Beach - Mazunte, Mexico
Reflections.

In honor of giving thanks, the best of intentions underpinning the Thanksgiving holiday, I offer this reflection on gratitude — the condition, the emotion and the state of being.  Note to Thanksgiving critics, skeptics and cynics: to underscore my awareness of the historical complexity behind the holiday, I point you to this article.  Also, if it appears that I’m repeating The Importance of Saying Thank You, I’m not.

Now, on gratitude.

Thanksgiving, The Excuse

Thanksgiving, I’ve said repeatedly, is my favorite holiday.  Aside from the craziness of “the biggest travel day of the year in the U.S.” and the lunacy around the Black Friday shopping perversion, the idea to my mind is pretty straightforward and pure: get yourself together with family and friends, share a meal (OK, so eat a ton), and be thankful for it.

Then maybe, in a food coma stupor, ruminate gratefully.

Or perhaps ruminate before the gorge.  After all, blood rushes to the digestive system thereby depriving the brain of the much-needed oxygen to ruminate.

Regardless, I seized this holiday – the day of giving thanks — as a convenient excuse to do something I’m certain I personally ought to be doing more of throughout the year: being grateful and reflecting on what gratitude actually means.

Finding the Time to Consider Gratitude

Recently, I’ve carved out the luxury of little bits of time, something that very recently either felt out of reach or that I did not stretch far enough to grasp.  This newfound and hopefully less fleeting joy has further afforded me the opportunity to reflect.

Reflection, by the way, is a wonderful thing.  Regardless of whether you are examining the “good” or the “bad”, processing is something we humans need to do.  And I don’t know about you, but this human needs to do more of it.  After the autumn I’ve had — whereupon my head had become a traffic jam the likes of which they have in China that takes 20 days to clear — this reflection is most welcome. Each passing day reaffirms this more then the previous.

During this reflection, I’ve had ups and downs that shall serve as fodder for another discussion entirely.  I have also realized something.  I have so much to be thankful for, yet sometimes the panels of my life story flip by so quickly that I don’t take the time to sit with it and take stock of what I could be grateful for.

Gratitude is not a time-intensive exercise. It’s a choice to allocate a slot of time however narrow to simply look around.

So where did I find the time to reflect on gratitude?  I made it.

Gratitude Defined

To that end, a definition.  I tell you, there’s a bit of variation out there regarding the meaning of the word gratitude.

“Readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

“Thankfulness”

Applied Gratitude

Gratitude, it appears, is an art.

At its most basic, the definition of gratitude seems all about gifts and givers, about merit undeserved.  Underneath this perspective is the idea that gratitude is about being thankful for something specific, to someone specific be they living or not.

But it seems to me that the art of gratitude is about entire package of not just saying thank you to other people, but being thankful for what is — stepping back for big things and small and appreciating the whole.

Which raises a question: can you be grateful without uttering a word to another soul?  I’d like to think so.

But I will not fool you, or sell the effort of gratitude short.  Gratitude takes some work. A life’s work, you might say.

Gratitude: Good for the General Us

Practicing gratitude, it’s good for others too.  Collateral benefit you might say. Even directionless, gratitude into the ether acts like a cosmic air freshener.  Think about it as ammunition in the battle against ill will.

Gratitude lays a foundation for things like generosity, sharing, and contentment – and the continual learning and re-learning of what that means.

I don’t know where it comes from or even why it is that I feel gratitude around certain people and in certain situations. I am simply thankful that it I do – and that it is.

The Flip Side

The foil of gratitude, expectation or entitlement, suggests “Why should I be thankful when I actually deserve this?”

Beware the assumption of what you should have.  There exists a real danger behind that entitlement: disappointment.   So much of our existence, our sense of happiness and satisfaction is a function of our expectations.  And these days, it seems like we are taught more and more to begin with an astoundingly high baseline.

Being grateful for what is, all things big and small, helps keep our expectations in perspective.

My Gratitude

So, I am grateful.

I am grateful to all our friends out there who sent so many kind comments about concern for our well being, whether it was connected to frightening flights, crazy buses or the volatile situation in and around Kashmir and Ladakh.  Travel can teach us many things in all manner of ways, and one of the greatest lessons is that we ought to be truly grateful.

I’m grateful for opportunities to see and experience things — astonishingly beautiful things — in such volume that I might well be tempted to take them for granted, which I am afraid I sometimes do.

Finally and most importantly, I am thankful for friends and for family.  And to know at any moment that they and the people they care about are well.

If you have trouble focusing on gratitude, close your eyes and be still.  Maybe it’s before or after your Thanksgiving meal, or maybe even during.  And sit for a moment with what is.  Take it in.  Then allow your gratitude to seep into the ether.  Maybe you’ll even feel it come right back to you.

—-

That’s my piece on gratitude.  I’m grateful that you took the time to read this article and even more grateful that you made it this far.

So, Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate it.  Happy Hanukkah, too.  Or Thanksgivukkah, if you don’t find the name appalling like I kinda do.

Now go eat that turkey (or tofurky) or whatever you choose, even if you choose to fast and eat nothing at all.  I’m grateful you have the choice.

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Panorama of the Week: American Thanksgiving at Homehttp://uncorneredmarket.com/american-thanksgiving-panorama/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/american-thanksgiving-panorama/#comments Thu, 24 Nov 2011 19:53:50 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=9834 By Daniel Noll

It’s a long road home. Over the course of five days last weekend, we made our way from Iran to Turkey to Germany to the United States by two trains, a boat, two planes and a car — arriving home in time to spend Thanksgiving with family. And for this, we are thankful. Thanksgiving, the […]

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By Daniel Noll

It’s a long road home.

Over the course of five days last weekend, we made our way from Iran to Turkey to Germany to the United States by two trains, a boat, two planes and a car — arriving home in time to spend Thanksgiving with family.

And for this, we are thankful.

Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday. Also our personal favorite. Whereas Christmas for many is about presents, Thanksgiving for us is about presence. The focus: food and family.

As you see from the panorama below, today’s Thanksgiving meal was an exceptional feast of roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie — just to name a few. A culinary combination that ranks as one of our all-time favorite meals.

So with full stomachs and happy hearts, we wish all our American friends a Happy Thanksgiving!

Panorama: Thanksgiving Meal with Family – Scranton, Pennsylvania

panorama directions

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Thanksgiving in Bolivia, MacGyver* in the Kitchenhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/thanksgiving-in-bolivia/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/thanksgiving-in-bolivia/#comments Sat, 28 Nov 2009 00:58:34 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=2694 By Daniel Noll

Thanksgiving may be over, but I’m still thankful. We admit it – we are the worst bloggers. Many wrote their Thanksgiving posts a week or two before turkey day while others prepared something to publish on the day itself. Then there’s us. We intended – we really did – to publish a reflection yesterday, but […]

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By Daniel Noll

Thanksgiving may be over, but I’m still thankful.

We admit it – we are the worst bloggers. Many wrote their Thanksgiving posts a week or two before turkey day while others prepared something to publish on the day itself.

Then there’s us.

We intended – we really did – to publish a reflection yesterday, but life took over and filled our day with a raft of experiences and emotions.

As we engineered our Thanksgiving dinner in an under-equipped Bolivian kitchen, we reflected on the kindness of people like the chicken rotisserie guy who came to our rescue with a smile…and a bottle of chicken drippings. And as we longingly recalled Thanksgivings past and the family and friends we spent them with, we reminded ourselves once again of what we are thankful for.

Ingredients for a Bolivian Thanksgiving

Oh, how thankful we would have been for the American supermarket perhaps just this once. Though the concept of cobbling together a Thanksgiving dinner out of a string of visits to various stalls at the fresh market may sound romantic to some of you, we would have been especially thankful for the ease of cruising an American supermarket, what with its bags of cranberries and cans of pumpkin.

But alas, that wasn’t an option. We walked up and down the mildly chaotic stalls of the central market in Sucre, Bolivia with our shopping list. Here’s what we found in the way of ingredients to make a Bolivian Thanksgiving feast:

Ingredients for a Thanksgiving Feast - Sucre, Bolivia
Ingredients for a Thanksgiving Feast in Bolivia

Stuffing

We strolled up to the first bread stand we encountered. The wheat loaf in the middle of the table looked decent. “Is it sweet?” we asked. Unfortunately, so much bread in Latin America is sweetened and it’s virtually impossible to tell based on appearance.

“No, it’s not sweet,” the grandmotherly vendor replied as she made haste to stuff the loaf into a black bag. Before she could get her hands on it, we turned the loaf over to reveal an unbeatable science experiment of lustrous green fuzz.

She wasn’t happy with us, but the bread ladies further down the aisle were; they made a point to show us the freshness of their loaves.

For our sake, we ask that you never again take celery for granted. We remember the good ol’ days in the Czech Republic when celery (no, not celery root!) — like something exotic — was impossible to find, save for the spendy, little French market. The Vietnamese rescued the day by bringing celery to the masses. But that’s another story.

Here in Sucre, acquiring celery was much easier than expected. It wasn’t abundant, but more than one vegetable lady was selling it.

Buying Celery at the Market - Sucre, Bolivia
Buying celery at the Sucre main market.

Bolivian celery stalks are puny, however. Think pinky-sized, stunted in growth. When the veg woman packed five bunches (no, not stalks) into a bag, we hesitated at the quantity. But, at $0.75 we decided to take it all. Good thing, as we used every last bit.

In lieu of the Provencal spice and olive oil we prefer, we opted to toast our bread cubes with a bit of melted butter, fresh parsley, and dried oregano and basil. The end result was so good it made us weep for home. Kidding, kidding. It was terrific, though.

And that funky Bolivian celery? A taste knockout.

Mashed Potatoes

It continues to amaze us that the most potato-endowed part of the world cannot find more clever ways to prepare its potatoes. Travel the Andes – from Ecuador to Bolivia – and you’ll go green from fried potatoes, potato chips and the dreaded (over) boiled potato.

Where are the mashed potatoes, people?!?!

But we digress.

Upon entering the potato courtyard at the Sucre central market, we were overwhelmed by choice (Bolivia and Peru boast something like 2,000 varieties of potatoes!).

Potato Courtyard - Sucre, Bolivia
Which are the best potatoes for making mashed potatoes?

“Which potatoes are best for potato puree?” we inquired at the edge of the potato courtyard. Instantly, our potato lady of choice pointed, said something like “good with butter,” and started bagging.

Later, when we ran our papas (potatoes) under water, they revealed a fascinating shade of purple. The inside was still a boring white, but the skins certainly looked exotic.

So you have no potato masher, you say? We can attest that even the starchiest potatoes can be lovingly mashed with a giant soup ladle. The results were pretty good, but a masher would have been nice, just to get them a little smoother. And you people with a Kitchen Aid: we don’t want to hear about it!

Turkey Chicken

We quickly abandoned our search for turkey, opting instead to go to one of the many rotisserie chicken places near the market.

When we entered the shop, Audrey gave our pitch in her best Spanish: “Today is a big American holiday. Usually we eat turkey but there are no turkeys here so we would like to eat one of your chickens instead. We also make this special sauce to go with the chicken. Can you give us some ‘chicken oil’ so we can prepare our holiday meal?” (Random language lesson of the day: chicken drippings in Spanish are called aceite de pollo.)

How thrilled this man was to help us complete our meal. He was all smiles – and so proud that we had chosen his shop.

Rotisserie Chickens - Sucre, Bolivia
Choosing our Thanksgiving chicken in Sucre, Bolivia.

And his chicken: truly immaculate. And a steal at $3 for a giant half-bird. The chicken juice – given free – was lean and beautiful, too — possibly one of the most lump-resistant stocks ever known to gravy-making man.

Bolivian Wine

During our brief time here in Bolivia, we’ve done our fair share of sampling various bottles of Bolivian wine. Eminently and imminently drinkable, the 2007 Aranjuez Tannat-Merlot blend has become our favorite. At $3.50 a bottle, it also fits our budget nicely.

Now we know we’re going to hear about “no red wine with white meat” from the cheap seats, but we choose to follow the advice from Dan’s “Wines and Spirits” class (yes, he had one of those) from long ago at university. As one of the visiting sommeliers from Windows on the World (once atop the World Trade Center) once advised: drink what you like, when you like it, with what you like.

Dessert

Attempting calabasas (the local squash pumpkin) pie would have proven a day-long exercise by itself. Given the instability of the hotel stove, it would likely have proven a disaster as well.

As an alternative, we considered these rainbow-colored jello cups from the market.

Rainbow Colored Gelatin - Sucre, Bolivia
Rainbow colored jello cups.

We thought better of it, however, and opted for some very tasty chocolate covered almonds from a local chocolatier.

As it turns out, we were so full that dessert was an impossibility anyway.

Final Outcome: Our Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving Feast - Sucre, Bolivia
Our Thanksgiving Feast in Bolivia. Pretty darn good.

An achievement, given the circumstances. From our standpoint, comfort food at its finest.

A Little Homesick

Bouts of homesickness come and go, and occasionally come again. To fend these off over the long-term, we usually make it a point to be with family and friends – or at least some other Americans – at Thanksgiving time. We managed this last year.

However, due to our travel plans this year, we found ourselves tucked deep in eastern Bolivia –- feeling a bit untethered in a nostalgic yet unpleasant way. We really longed to be with family, and our Thanksgiving Day began almost ruefully because of this.

It’s hard to say how we emerged from this homesick funk. Perhaps it was the parsley and goat cheese vendor and how she laughed when Audrey asked how many goats she owned. Or maybe it was the chicken man’s generosity and kindness.

Maybe it was the simple pleasure of cooking this meal – still one of our favorites in the world – that helped put us in a frame of mind to appreciate what we have. Or perhaps it was the communication with family and friends that placed it all in perspective.

Regardless, we are thankful for the opportunities we have. At times we grouse about things (don’t we all?), but we know that it’s crucial to reel ourselves back in and realize how fortunate we have been to see and experience all that we have in our lives — good, bad or indifferent.

And to our friends and family, it’s to you that our thoughts run often, but especially during these holidays. We are grateful for all those Thanksgivings past with you — in the U.S., France, Germany, Czech Republic, China and a few places in between that we’ve certainly forgotten.

If our travels have taught us anything, it’s that nothing is permanent. So we are thankful for it all and for as long as we have it.

——-
*MacGyver – a U.S. television show character who became an icon by fashioning grand solutions out of the simplest bits available to him. We have vague, unsubstantiated memories of him breaking free from a prison by using only a stick of bubble gum.

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A Fisheye Thanksgivinghttp://uncorneredmarket.com/a-fisheye-thanksgiving/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/a-fisheye-thanksgiving/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2008 22:53:06 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=457 By Daniel Noll

Thanksgiving is our favorite American holiday and favorite American meal, hands down. Last year we enjoyed Thanksgiving with expats from around the world in Beijing, China. This year we share Thanksgiving dinner with family in Scranton, Pennsylvania. We wonder: where will we find ourselves at this time next year? No matter where you are, we […]

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By Daniel Noll

Thanksgiving Kitchen, Fisheye - Scranton, Pennsylvania
Thanksgiving Kitchen.

Thanksgiving is our favorite American holiday and favorite American meal, hands down.

Last year we enjoyed Thanksgiving with expats from around the world in Beijing, China. This year we share Thanksgiving dinner with family in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

We wonder: where will we find ourselves at this time next year?

No matter where you are, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

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