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Crazy delicious breakfast of smoked salmon, bagel, cream cheese, grape tomatoes, and champagne grapes. 

Gearing up for a big interview today with President of Antioch University and former Congressman, Brian Baird for our film today, as well as two meetings afterwards, and a writers meetup in town tonight. 

Do your work, smoked salmon breakfast!

Crazy delicious breakfast of smoked salmon, bagel, cream cheese, grape tomatoes, and champagne grapes.

Gearing up for a big interview today with President of Antioch University and former Congressman, Brian Baird for our film today, as well as two meetings afterwards, and a writers meetup in town tonight.

Do your work, smoked salmon breakfast!

It’s only today that Vasant and I feel like we’re recovering rest-wise from our film road trip for the documentary. We got home Friday morning, after covered two thousand miles, seven interviews, and three states. We worked a film job in Seattle Friday night, and Saturday we were still in go-mode. We tried resting, but kept getting into work or errands.

Today, however, we’re suddenly feeling stiff from a week in the car, exhausted from the travel, and ready to rest. We’ve been grilling salmon, cooking rice and black beans, making guacamole and getting ready for Game of Thrones. That’s as much effort as we’re putting into today.

Tomorrow we get back into it with filming, so we have to make the tacos and television count.

Tonight I made a century-old family recipe passed down from my great-great grandfather, written above for my Mom in 1977 by Grandma as a Christmas/Welcome to the Salcedos gift. It was for Lemon Bread and Lemon Curd— my father’s favorite baked good at Christmas. Throughout the years, Grandma would give jars of the curd and loaves of lemon bread at Christmas and my Dad would rave to us about it, as if we’d never heard of dessert before.

The baking started as a nice thing to do for my Dad, to remind him of her and how she’ll live on in our Christmas traditions, as I wrote last week. It became something else.

My grandma left us with the vanishing snow on Friday evening. At the moment my Dad texted my Uncle, a power outage hit the area he was in—all light extinguished in the instant my Uncle read the words: “She’s gone.” Such was the power and drama my grandmother commanded. When she left, it was with signs and wonders.

My sisters and I arrived at the hospice, wept over Grandma, with each other, and we scattered rose petals over her with our parents, our aunt and uncle, each of us telling her one last time that we loved her.

The last month her face had been barely recognizable. The stroke left her in such pain and confusion, the fear of which constantly registered over her features.

But Friday night was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen her. She looked like pictures I’d seen of her from her youth. Wrinkles were diminished, and bruises vanished. She had a slight smile brushing up against the corner of her lips, like she had been ready, released into what’s next from the pain that had held her.

I’m still not ready, though. No time with a loved one is ever enough; love makes us too greedy. Baking her recipe tonight was an act of mourning, a rite of remembrance. She had techniques in these recipes that I’d never used before, and every time I wished I could ask her for clarification on a direction, I was hit with the pain of losing her, the knowledge that I could never ask her anything again.

Everyone has their time, I know, but no one deserves Alzheimer’s, least of all her. I’m still not completely at peace with this, but I stand by what I said last week: If there is a time to say goodbye, let it be at Christmas. Let it be at a time when we can observe traditions that unite us with those we lost.

I felt so close to her as I baked tonight, reading her marginalia in the recipe, thinking of how she shaped my father and myself. I know I can keep her in my heart when I follow in her traditions, and I can almost hear her laughter as I smell the Meyers lemons wafting up from the loaves as they cool.

Thanksgiving is such a special day for me. I trained for years as a teenager with my mom to master the turkey, gravy, and more. She was more than grateful for the help, since my three younger sisters were still kids, and our holiday feasts often included other families, our table regularly accommodating ten to twenty guests.

By my twenties, I took over the meal and gave my Mom the day to rest. I developed my own turkey recipe, my own magical method for The Best Gravy You’ll Ever Eat, invented pie recipes, new sides and more. For me, cooking is like my writing: Any effort that mines the imagination involves sharing a bit of your heart and soul with others. It’s gratifying, exhausting and always a bit illuminating.

However, as you grow and learn about the world, holidays you blindly embraced as a child get pitted against the acknowledgement of the disparate suffering so many experience throughout the year, but especially in the holiday season.

My family has dipped in and out of poverty at various times throughout our three decades together. We’ve weathered illness, death, economic crashes and unemployment together, and our table hasn’t always been full at the holidays. However, we have had a table. A roof. We did not die of starvation or of cold, and unfortunately, that is a reality that exists today in America for too many in what is supposedly considered a world super-power. It hurts my heart to celebrate a holiday that exhorts thankfulness and gratitude for what you have now, not what may be purchased later, while so many have so much less.

Today Pope Francis declared in his first apostolic exhortation that unbridled capitalism is an evil:

How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

His words couldn’t have come at a better time. Only America will be celebrating Thanksgiving this week, and the even more atrocious Black Thursday/Friday that kicks off the gluttonous retail season. In his words, the Pope, and this should be apparent to you regardless of your religious views, expresses the crisis of have and have not holidays.

For so many of us, regardless of our budget and our weekend retail plans, this Thursday will be a day of intense gratitude, love, good cooking, and triptophan-induced naps. But Thanksgiving shouldn’t be a holiday for inward reflections and celebrations alone. It can be a time when our gratitude for what we have increases our mercy for those who have less, and our hearts open to the fullness of what the holidays hold for us: goodwill and hope for all of us.

This year, to that end, I want recommend giving to a great domestic hunger relief charity, like Feeding America. It is one of the nation’s largest and most efficient domestic hunger-relief programs. For every dollar you give, 97% of it goes to fighting hunger and nine meals are procured for those in need. Right now, they’re matching funds for Thanksgiving, so just $10 becomes $20 and that $20 secures 180 meals through Feeding America. There are a lot of great regional programs I’ve given to before: FareStart, Northwest Harvest and more, but whatever charity you look into, check out it’s rating and make sure you’re not donating to an organization that spends your money on marketing rather than its mission (I’m looking at you and your pink shirts, Susan G. Komen Foundation.)

If you can give, please do. Allot some money from your holiday budget, even if that budget is lean this year, and help fight hunger. Our gratitude is always increased when we are painfully aware of those who are in need, but we need to do more than be aware. Gratitude without acts of selflessness can quickly turn to greed. We need to help, in any way we can. During the holidays, when we give we take full advantage of what the holidays can be: a time of gratitude and grace; of reflection which inspires action. 

When life gets crazy, bake a pie.

White Peach & Blueberry Pie

Filling:

  • 8 white peaches
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 T. cardamom
  • 1 T. cinnamon
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 T. flour

Cut up peaches and combine in bowl with blueberries, cardamom and cinnamon. Set aside.

Pie Crusts:

  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold butter
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 tsp. cloves

Mix flour, sugar, cardamom and cloves together. Place dry mixture into food processor and combine with cold cubes of butter (or use the old cutting method.) Once the butter is thoroughly mixed in with the dry mixture, add the cold water. Knead into a pliable, smooth dough and then form into a ball. Divide ball in half and form each half into a pie crust wider than the diameter of the pie pan. 

Once the first pie crust is in the pan, pile the fruit in the middle. Sprinkle with one tablespoon flour and sugar and cover with second crust. Fold edges of first crust over the second crust and push up against the sides of the pan so you can show off your style on the crust. I went for a simple aesthetic; you might want to illustrate the battle of Hogwarts around the sides of yours. 

Once you’re styled your pie, crack an egg yolk into a cup and combine with a splash of cold water. Mix up and brush lightly over the crust. Sprinkle with sugar and pop in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 and 40 minutes at 350, or until golden brown. 

Once done, cool for an hour before instagramming, eating, serving to loved ones or saving for next day’s breakfast. 

Not to go all Keri Russell on you, but there is a definite magic to making pies that calms me. I’m not even hungry for it when I’m done making it, but I feel emptied out of everything that was previously consuming me. It’s a type of meditation. Each recipe changes with the day you create it, with the fruit that you find and the mood that you’re in.

Today was filled with meetings, production budgets and shooting schedules and ended with a simple, beautiful new pie recipe. 

Actually, I lied. It’s actually ending with a Breaking Bad marathon. 

There goes the calm I just cultivated. ;)

So earlier, I posted prep photos, a brunch photo, and Lilo watching the dog show. This day has been pretty perfect.

Now, after running around and getting the meal on the table, the evening is finally winding down. The turkey’s finished and consumed. We ate yams roasted in duck fat, rosemary and garlic, covered with brown sugar, brussel sprouts braised in bacon and shallots, green bean casserole, two kinds of mashed potatoes (garlic parmesan and plain whipped potatoes), herb stuffing, my magical gravy (in a food group of its own) and cranberry sauce.

For dessert, we had pumpkin pie (my own recipe) and Brandy Apple Pie (my own recipe again… I’m a pie wizard) with homemade vanilla bean whipped cream.

Now, full of competing elements of tryptophan and coffee, we’ve retired to Vasant and I’s house for more BANG! and Christmas movies.

I hope you all had an incredible day. Happy Thanksgiving!