Getting Ready: My Very First Turkey, and What I’m Thankful For

View into our yard.

I am ready to roast the very first Thanksgiving turkey of my life. And a whole one at that. No flat spatchcocked bird. No lonesome turkey breast. A beautiful whole bird. The real deal.

Admittedly, the thought had crept into my mind a while ago. Kind of settled in. As a thought. Nothing more. For someone who was not raised in this country, this can seem like a mammoth endeavor—considering the culinary panic that seems to settle into so many households around this time of the year. Why should I become part of it?

But two weeks ago I ordered a turkey. I picked up the phone and placed my order. I did it without really thinking, afraid that if I did that that would be the end of it. Since then, I’ve changed my order two times. And I spent a few sleepless hours wondering if I should call in one more time to change the pick-up date given the countless recipes that I’ve since pored over. Only extreme embarrassment kept me from making another change.

As many of you know, I was raised in Germany and Greece where this most important American holiday is not celebrated. Over the years I have been invited to many Thanksgiving feasts by friends and colleagues who opened their homes to us newcomers and shared their birds with all the trimmings. Yet somehow I never even considered doing the same in my house. Roasting a whole bird seemed insurmountable. Just for lifting it, I would have to frequent the gym and use dumbbells for months. Did I say I loathe that?

Then something changed two years ago, almost to the day, and something that fits the spirit of this holiday: we closed on our very first home in this country, an old character-rich worker’s cottage on a quiet street with a small yard. Moving into this new home changed a lot for me: it provided the calm respite I needed when my first cookbook was published and took off in ways I never imagined. It also gave me the most inviting sunny kitchen I ever cooked in — with a cozy adjacent dining area. While I always have hosted dinners, big and small, this beautiful space and the publication of my book have instilled me with a newly found confidence for which I’m immensely thankful. And suddenly this year I feel ready. Turkey, here I come to cook you.

My favorite aspect of this American holiday is its reminder to reflect on the gifts life hands to us, something we tend to forget in the daily rush of life. Given the challenges so many face here and abroad, I’m grateful for our home, health, and the friends and family who surround and support us. This year, I’m immensely thankful that my Greek mom was able to come for a month-long visit in October. As our parents get older, a huge journey like this creates anxiety for everyone. Needless to say, I spent days worrying how she would take the long journey—yet when she emerged from the transatlantic flight her cheeks were rosy, she had a huge smile on her face, and she went on to eat and drink with us that night as if she drove here from 15 minutes away.

I’m especially thankful for the countless readers of my cookbook who continue to lift my spirits by sending letters, e-mails, and by publishing recipes and writing on their blogs, sometimes moving me to tears. And it makes me speechless that my book still makes it onto holiday favorite lists, for a second year.

Writing Ancient Grains was a lifelong dream, and to see that it inspires so many people to try grains they might never have considered is the biggest gift of all. Last but not least, I’m thankful for the community of food lovers, writers, bloggers, readers, and eaters I connect with on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and here on my very own nascent blog. Thank you!

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