I’m grateful for the simple pleasures of favorite things, like the chartreuse blanket Deb gave me years ago, the hori hori garden knife from Lee Valley that Garden Buddy noticed the other day, double dark chocolate Milano cookies, Zoom cooking with Amy, year round Christmas lights, a hot shower, bees on flowers, happy shows, the Raggedy Ann doll I’ve had for sixty years, a camera phone in my pocket, and a cheese sandwich with plenty of mayonnaise. It’s great to be grateful for these tangible things, and important not to look to them alone for happiness. I’m also grateful for a “life of the mind,” and for meditation and other skills to train that mind; for knowledge and wisdom acquired through years of choices, mistakes, and unintended outcomes, along with deeply satisfying results sometimes, like this house I live in. I’m grateful for new ideas and experiences, for old friends, and for a heart that keeps on ticking.
I’ve been grateful the past couple of days for Thanksgiving leftovers, with which to enhance cheese sandwiches. Yesterday, I toasted oat bread, then layered mayo, Swiss cheese, lettuce, bacon, and leftover turkey, and grilled it in bacon fat. So crunchy! So delicious. Other people love fancy cranberry sauces with orange pieces, grapes, nuts, and all manner of other bits in; but I only love Aunt Linda’s cranberry sauce, the ancestral recipe from my father’s side of the family. “It’s like canned,” said the hostess the other day. Well, I guess, but it was being made long before anyone thought to put cranberry sauce in a can. I didn’t make it this year, and so declined leftover cranberry sauce. When I set out to make yesterday’s sandwich, I really really wanted cranberry sauce on it, the right kind. It occurred to me to substitute chokecherry jelly, which is sweet, tart, and a little bitter, just like cranberry sauce. Which, our ancestral way, made only of stewing whole cranberries and sugar, is really just cranberry jelly. I’m grateful there was still some left from two summers ago, since there were no chokecherries this year.
Another Thanksgiving leftover, a delicious puffy yeast roll, provided today’s sandwich, cold this time, with mayo, chokecherry jelly, turkey, cheddar, and lettuce. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful that eating has become so much more to me than filling up with meaningless food. Eating is a gratitude practice in itself, holding in awareness the sources of all the ingredients, how they were grown or who made or provided them; remembering, with leftovers, their primary meals and who was involved in making and sharing those. I’m grateful to live in a community where hostesses remind me to bring containers to take home leftovers; and grateful that when I forget to, they are provided. As I remember Thursday’s dinner, I’m grateful all over for dining at last with friends again, and grateful there were leftovers.
I woke feeling sad, after yesterday’s descent into the stark reality of climate chaos. I thought I might feel sad forever. I’m grateful I’ve learned to accept sadness, and impermanence: I’m grateful for allowing things to be as they are in each moment, and for the reassuring knowledge that everything changes, nothing remains the same for long.
Nothing external has changed, of course: insects are still in decline worldwide. But I trudged out on this crisp, damp morning with Stellar and Topaz by my side, and strolled to visit this split tree. I felt better already, just letting myself be sad, and finding beauty at the same time, balancing grief and gratitude within equanimity.
And then there’s the cheese sandwich, cookout edition. I’ve been thinking about this for days. I had frozen a hot dog leftover from Michael’s memorial, which I thawed and sliced. All the hot dog condiments slathered on wheat bread, sliced cheddar, and potato chips completed the assemblage: a whole cookout in a single sandwich. Yes, it’s a temporary pleasure, lasting only as long as the sandwich itself; but, the making of it, the thinking it up, and definitely the eating of it, all while remembering Michael and last week’s party, lifted my spirits. Life’s simple pleasures. I’m grateful that my life includes the conditions to have on hand all the ingredients of a cheese sandwich, the technology to keep them fresh, the leisure to dream about then make one, the awareness to savor the process and every bite, and the reasonable expectation that I will eat again tomorrow.
A day without cheese is like a day without sunshine. I was discussing cheese last night with a friend on the phone and we concurred. I’m so grateful for cheese! I’m grateful for cheddar and brie and havarti, for parmesan and cream cheese, for gruyere, gouda, feta, mozzarella and bleu cheese; for hard cheese, soft cheese, and melted cheese, for cheese on crackers, cheese on toast, cheese on bread with mayo. I’m grateful for the people who make cheese and sell cheese, and for the animals who provide the milk that becomes cheese.
I’m grateful for cow cheese, sheep cheese, and … ok, I’m even grateful for goat cheese, because it makes some people happy, and leaves more cow cheese in the world for me. If I had to pick only one thing that I could ever eat again, I’d pick the cheese sandwich: Bacon, brie and avocado grilled in bacon fat on bakery-fresh sliced French bread, with mayonnaise; cold cheddar and potato chips on plain white store-bought bread, with mayonnaise… Technically, pizza could count as a cheese sandwich, and for sure panini would: You can put anything on bread or between bread and call it a cheese sandwich, as long as you include cheese. I think it’s a pretty versatile pick.
I like to keep a few kinds of cheese in the fridge at all times. You never know when you’re going to need some kind of cheese. This afternoon I needed cheese. I had some leftover carne asada from the other night, and no tortillas, so I made cheesos: taco shells of melted cheddar cheese, with lettuce, red onion, carne asada, homemade salsa, and sour cream, what I had on hand. Simple. Delicious. And so cheesy. Yes, I’m grateful for cheese.