There is so much to be done. House cleaning, grocery shopping, potato peeling…
I haven’t had the pleasure of hosting a Thanksgiving in my own home yet (apartments don’t work great for that sort of thing. Especially ones without a kitchen table…) but I have assisted at a whole mess of wonderful Thanksgiving gatherings. If you aren’t usually the cook, be sure to kiss the cheek of those who are this year. Cooking a Thanksgiving meal truly is a great undertaking, but the cause is worthy.
I’ve been wondering for a long while what I would say to you about such an iconic holiday that is dripping with tradition. Thanksgiving is, after all, the holiday where people classically ask you over and over again what you are thankful for. It is a wonderful thing to look at your life, and take notice of your treasures. I hope we all do this so much more than once a year.
No, this Thanksgiving, I don’t want to focus on thankfulness at all. Instead, I want us to consider something that should be the pulse of traditions like these– where we heartily gather around kitchen tables and share in classic dishes– and that is the heart of servitude.
On any other day of the year we would all easily plan to go out and have a lovely dinner, being served by friendly and distant wait-staffs, enjoying every second of the idea that someone comes to clear your plate and bring you fresh coffee to complement your dessert. All people love to be served. Yet somehow, when it comes to most family dinner gatherings, what we fret and focus on the most is all the cooking, and neglect the idea that we’ve been given a unique opportunity to host the ones we love in our homes, and serve them with the most sincere love of our heart and hands.
Glazing yams and roasting turkeys are things any person could accomplish, assuming they could google search ‘how to cook a turkey’ and locate items in a grocery store. Becoming an astute cook takes some meager time and practice, but really, anyone can do it well. Mere food is not enough to make a Thanksgiving gathering an evening be remembered, but your humble, loving, kind-hearted service will.
Embodying the heart of service in your home this holiday season is easily done. For the technical side of things, serve dinner as you see fit. Do you dream over the idea of matched place settings and full service style dining? Do it. Have your kids dress like waiters if you want! Make it fun, and honest, and a symbol of your genuine adoration of the people you are feeding, and it will be successful. Do you like low-key? Great! family style service is loved by all, but still be sure to serve in the little ways, like filling drinks and clearing plates. Your hospitality won’t go unnoticed, and there really is joy in this meager act of beautifully providing such a basic need as nourishment for those you love. Are you a guest this year? Don’t seek to be served; make your aim to serve where you can instead. You’ll be a real blessing to your host on such a busy day.
By focusing your Thanksgiving on unselfish service, you will gracefully glide through all the other colossal tasks the day can be. It is a lot of cooking. There will be many dishes. Some things may not turn out as expected. Such is life, but none of this will matter when you’re willingly giving yourself to hosting your family and friends with love. Making a mean green bean casserole is a wonderful gift indeed, but without true hospitality, the goal is lost.
Cooking is just a humble skill– just an answer to a basic necessity of life– but having a servant’s heart and giving of ourselves and our time freely to serve others is the quality that takes food and people, and makes it a truly joyous time. We all have our own best recipes, but they in themselves cannot represent love, and thankfulness, and care. A heart of servitude takes a recipe like Maple Whipped Sweet Potatoes and makes them more– they become my humble attempt to say, “Hey, you know I love you, right?” when I prepare them with my own hands, and my limited time here on earth, then bring them to you warm, and clean and put them away when you’re satisfied. The idea is simple, and old-fashioned, and exactly what you need to find happiness this Thanksgiving, and the many holidays to come.
Maple Whipped Sweet Potatoes
You will need:
- 4 or 5 large sweet potatoes (about one per two persons)
- 1/4 cup or more pure maple syrup
- heavy dash of cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- one small scoop of butter
- one small handful of toasted pecans (for garnish and deliciousness.)
Bake your sweet potatoes in a 400 degree oven for about an hour, or until fork tender (poke them a few times with a fork before baking.) When cool enough to handle, scoop the insides out into a bowl. Add maple syrup to taste, butter, and salt. Mix and mash well. Add brown sugar and other trimmings if you like– sweet potatoes are very healthy, and so I try not to undo that too much. Serve topped with toasted pecans.