Give Thanks To The Lord, For He Is Good
Thankfulness, urbanist-adjacent thoughts on home, and food!
It’s our first time today hosting Thanksgiving ever, and the first one we’re having in our new house. I’ve written about homeownership a bit here and elsewhere—here’s one from the newsletter and here’s one in Discourse Magazine.
I think about the comfort and security of a house, but also the feeling of vulnerability. At some point it occurred to me that while my old apartment, up on a high floor, had only one entry restricted with an electronic key, our house has as many potential entry points as there are windows. You’re more secure and more exposed at the same time. A house can cocoon you in a sense, and make the rest of the world feel more distant. I think it can also make you a little paranoid: I wrote once, how you deal with having things to lose is a test of your character. I think about that a lot. Altogether, though, we love our house and are incredibly thankful for it.
The work—housework if you don’t like it, homemaking if you do—is really quite gratifying. I understand the desire to not bother with a lawn, or, if your income permits it, to outsource everything to a landscaper. But I love going out with the lawnmower—a no-maintenance electric model—and clipping the grass or mulching the leaves. We enjoy raking the thousands of acorns from our massive oak tree a little bit less, but we like the shade of the tree in summer, and the squirrels running through the yard. Scrubbing the sink every night, wiping down the counter and stove, inventorying the garage freezer—I enjoy having to do these things. It grows your mind; it gives you an opportunity to read and learn about things you’d never encounter.
I see people sometimes say cooking is a chore that we should think about outsourcing a lot more—that kitchens raise the cost of new housing for everyone, regardless of whether residents want to use them, cooking is an inefficient use of time, etc.
Those things should be options—fine. But that seems…bare. Disenchanted. I think a lot of people fear that permitting that option will force competition on cost and space and make what used to be a given a luxury. Look at how you have to pay extra for even a carry-on bag or seat selection on an airplane these days.
You can view the barebones economy and the slightly better economy-plus—the old standard—as an increase in consumer choice. Or you can view it as a frustrating development, where there’s no grace and no slack. Where absolutely everything has a price. The squeezing out of little extras, and the pricing of everything, is something you feel acutely. But the flexibility that barebones options give to people without a lot of money is important.
We’ve been in our home a year now. One of our downstairs rooms is still completely empty. We kind of like the space. Two of the four bedrooms are empty. Do we need all that space? Probably not. Do we need the kitchen we have? We did the same cooking with the old, smaller kitchen. The bigger one enhances the experience, but I think of how frustrating it would be to go back to what we used to have, even though, when it was what we had, it was good enough. Why isn’t good enough good enough?
When we visit my wife’s family back in China, I marvel at how tiny her family’s kitchen is—basically a little nook, a space I’d consider unusable. And yet her father (the men in her family and ours cook) makes so much incredible homemade food out of that little space.
I’ve begun to realize that the answer to these seeming riddles is not that some people are superhuman, but that most of us could be happy with less. Does that mean we should have less? I don’t know. I think of it more like being careful about allowing the mental muscle for tolerating inconvenience to atrophy. In some ways, I don’t like to give myself extra conveniences, because I want to retain the option of not having them.
I wrote this:
But anyway. The food!
Here’s the star of the show:
We’ve learned, over the course of a few years, that we don’t really like turkey. Popeyes’s Cajun turkey is sufficiently unlike plain turkey that we like it. It’s flavorful, has a little bit of that chewy deli-turkey texture, and comes cooked, so you just rewarm it. Plus, the Cajun turkey drippings make incredible gravy.
To that, we’re adding our old classics—a rice-based stuffing my grandmother used to make, mashed sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts or asparagus, homemade cranberry sauce (my dad makes it). We never did dinner rolls, and we never even did bread-based stuffing. But this time I’m making an enhanced cornbread stuffing, with dried cranberries and roasted chestnuts. Probably also some kind of simple roasted vegetable. And bacon-wrapped scallops, a new addition. We’re Italian enough that lunch on Thanksgiving Day is an antipasto spread, plus—another new addition—deviled eggs.
Every year we spend too much time cooking, have too many leftovers, and say, “You know, next year we don’t have to do all this.” And yet we do. Why? I don’t know. Not everything needs to be litigated and reasoned out. Some things are just good. Comfort and discomfort, work and rest, are linked in some way. There’s a right balance, and maybe we’ve found it, or maybe not.
But we’re thankful, and that’s enough. Happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you for reading! Please consider upgrading to a paid subscription to help support this newsletter. You’ll get a weekly subscribers-only piece, plus full access to the archive: over 800 pieces and growing. And you’ll help ensure more like this!
Won’t you be my subscriber? Check out free and paid subscription options!