This is the week everyone is focused on gratitude and giving thanks. It is a time of gathering with those we love to feast! Of all the days on the calendar that I cook, the last Thursday of November reminds me to slow down and have patience while things are in the oven or simmering on the stove. This holiday meal needs special attention: basting, long hours of roasting, seasoning, seasoning again. It is a labor of love and deliciousness.

As one who counts my blessings in a daily gratitude email group, I’m especially interested in all of the ways people say thank you for their food. I was raised to recite “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts, from which we are about to receive, from thy bounty. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.” before every meal. I miss the tradition of holding my parents’ and sister’s hands around the table and closing my eyes acknowledging that someone larger than me provided the food and the opportunity to share it with the people I love most.

My way of expressing myself spiritually has transformed greatly since I left home. I created my own prayer around mealtime, and my parents don’t seem to mind since I do most of the cooking when I am home. I say, “Bless this food, the hands that prepared it, the mouths that will eat it, and every one who is not here to join us.” It covers all the bases, right? I don’t think anyone gives a hoot what we say, but what we mean and how we act.

When I was in India, I learned about Prasad /prəˈsɑːd/. It is when food is presented as a religious offering in Hinduism, and then consumed by the worshippers. It means gracious gift. The Prasad is distributed among the devotees after it has been offered to the deities.  It is then considered to have the deity’s blessing residing within it and it becomes sacred.  Wikipedia says that a blessing is the infusion of something with holiness, spiritual redemption, divine will, or one's hope or approval. What a beautiful meaning!

Whomever or where ever you worship, and even if there is no one and nowhere for you, there is an undeniable connectivity we have to our world and the people in it. I invite you to recognize the generosity of the sun and moon, the abundance of the oceans – all of this the universe provides so magically. Meister Johann Eckhardt said, 'If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, that would be sufficient.'

If you are preparing a big menu this week, may it be a pleasure and full of ease. And may the gifts of your attention, time, and effort be appreciated. Whether you are saying grace or going around the table to offer up a phrase for which you are grateful, remember that the small ingredient of gratitude before a meal will be something you taste long after the dishes have been done and the football games have been watched. I hope this Thanksgiving/Hannukah week will be the perfect last gust of Fall wind to fill your sails as you get down to the business of Winter and the end of the year.

This recipe is a slight ethnic twist to a more traditional holiday side dish.

Baby Carrots with Pomegranate

I like to use carrots with stems at every opportunity I can. I like the reminder of the carrot being alive. I think the stems are pretty, but feel free to trim them.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1½ lbs of 5” long baby carrots, carefully washed, patted dry, greens cropped to 1”

2 Tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

½ teaspoon cumin

1 T pomegranate molasses *

½ cup pomegranate seeds

Toss the carrots in the oil, salt, pepper, and cumin until they are well coated. Line them up in a single layer on a rimmed sheet pan that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes until well browned, rotating midway. Drizzle with the pomegranate molasses and sprinkle with seeds before serving. Serves 4.

*If you can’t find pomegranate molasses substitute balsamic glaze or vinegar.