A fresh and clean shaved brussel sprout salad with roasted butternut squash, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped apple, and feta cheese – all tied together with a citrusy maple cinnamon dressing.
While I normally don’t discuss my background, nor my emotions as they pertain to anything other than food, I thought I’d give a little piece of my heart in this post. What can I say? I’m growing soft in my old age. A couple of years ago, my mom and I had a conversation that completely changed my outlook on life. It took place no time close to Thanksgiving – we’ll say during the Spring. I was going through one of those existential phases. You know, the one when you’re like, “What is the meaning of life? Wow, life really has no meaning.” Depressing much? Keep reading. It gets better after it gets worse.
I’ll set the stage for the conversation.
Characters: Julia and her mom
Place: Julia’s favorite walking path where she goes to clear her head.
Method of communication: cellular device of the iPhone varietal.
State of being: Overwhelmed, fungry, melodramatic, dissatisfied.
Current weather conditions: Slightly cloudy at 55 degrees F. Light breeze.
Time of Day: Late afternoon.
The mission at hand: Discover ultimate bliss.
While strolling on my favorite walking path, I phoned my mom, as I often do when I’m going through a state of what-the-fuckedness, and I laid it all out for her. Without remembering the details, my guess is my rant was 99% self-centered, and in a torrent of feeling powerless to have any sort of meaning or positive impact in this world (which seems to have a natural propensity to destroy itself) – the end question was essentially how can we find happiness in our self-worth? How can anyone really be happy?
My mom – after listening patiently to what was probably a 15-minute tirade – without skipping a beat responded, “I think the answer is being grateful. When you’re truly grateful for what you have, you find a contentment that can’t be touched by anything negative.” I was taken aback by her statement, and I let it really sink in. Just think about it. She is completely correct. It’s stupid simple and it was right under my nose the entire time. In really giving weight to what we’re grateful to have, we can see life for what it truly is: a big, beautiful, hot mess, and we can become so utterly satisfied with what we actually possess: our integrity. Our loved ones. Our health. Our ability to give to others. Our ability to experience life in any beautiful way we can. Our stolen moments.
From that conversation forward, when I have an existential crisis, I remind myself of that very conversation and the insane wealth of earth’s small pleasures I’m fortunate to enjoy – free of charge! I remind myself of the immaterial things and the people who make my life worthy…content…happy, if you will. The conversation is particularly pertinent to this time of year because it reminds me why it’s important to be grateful.
So in honor of Thanksgiving, I give thanks to you, my readers, for being here with me. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran, I am grateful for your presence. I am grateful we share this space.
I am grateful also for my health, the health of my family, my boyfriend, who gracefully weathers more storms than we see in actual nature, for the mountains, running shoes and booze, for being able to discern the difference between what matters and what is immaterial.
I am ever-so grateful to be well-fed with quality food. I am grateful to be able to enjoy homemade dishes like the one you see in this post.
And speaking of this dish… It’s a crunch lover’s delight – that’s really all there is to it. The salad requires a good amount of chewing..it will make you grateful for your teeth. It also does require some prep time on account of having to shave the brussel sprouts thinly and roast the butternut squash. But all in all, it’s a fun, festive, healthful dish – marvelous for adding to your holiday meal.
You can change it up to make it your own adventure by…
- Replacing the butternut squash with sweet potato or a different winter squash such as kabocha or acorn.
- Omitting the feta cheese to make it vegan, or substituting goat cheese for feta.
- Adding roasted or candied nuts
- Adding chopped bacon and/or using bacon drippings in the dressing.
- Tossing in some dried cranberries for more sweetness and tang.
Have a meaningful, happy, and healthful Thanksgiving!