This week, many or most Americans will sit down to a traditional or not-so-traditional meal of turkey – alternatively, on both ends of the spectrum, turducken or tofurkey – and many other holiday dishes, as a way of giving thanks for the blessings of daily life.

Perhaps the sideboard will groan less this year than it has in the recent past, as unemployment and other byproducts of the cash and credit debacle continue to wield their Draconian impacts.

Perhaps some of us, for the first time this year, will qualify for charity – those pre-packed baskets of cranberry jelly and frozen toms prepared by church ladies for the “less fortunate.” Or perhaps we are those church ladies, and we are tucking in a few extra treats this time around as a way of expressing our grief and guilt at how much darker life looks for a lot of Americans. Homemade chocolate chip cookies, maybe, or preserved jams and jellies heretofore reserved for immediate family and special friends. Many of us will also prepare seasonal gifts for shipping to American military personnel engaged in overseas warfare.

For my part, I will strive to simplify and do more with less. No pricey smokehouse products from New England this year, or bakery delicacies. No gourmet chocolates, no champagne. No imported strawberries or raspberries, no malossol Beluga.

Just locally produced foods prepared by hand with time and love – a roasted bird, dressing from an old family recipe using homemade chicken stock and saltine crackers (they take on a lovely satiny quality that is both delicate and hearty in such a bath), flaky biscuits made with milk soured the old-fashioned way – it went bad after too long in the fridge.

Pecans picked up from the yard and shelled and roasted to be coaxed into crunchy pies with short pastry made from scratch and lots and lots of cheap but wonderful sugar – yes, sugar!

Pumpkins and peppers and squashes that the land yielded just days ago, and rosemary and flat Italian parsley handpicked along with mesclun and mache from the winter garden.

Cranberries? Negotiable. They’re not from around here, but they’re native American and traditional.

The menu changes occasioned by the general economic sparsity will not damage our ability to express our gratitude for the things that enrich our lives, I’ve made up my mind about that. So, as a foundation for a somewhat more conservative celebration, I’ve begun counting my blessings.

I am thankful for:

Everyone who is reading this
My children and grandchildren (and that includes quite a few people beyond blood relatives)
Ollie and Gogo, my black cats who shower me with fun and love all the time
The Beatles
New Mexico
James Blunt
Roederer Kristal (in memory only!)
The sun
Flannery O’Connor and every word she ever wrote
(to be continued)

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