on ritual

finding comfort in repetition

It’s been awhile, friends. Every time I think that this will be a regular newsletter, I go down a rabbit hole of work and then things snowball, and before I know it, it’s been months. Not for lack of trying.

As I write this, I have duck-veggie-scrap stock simmering on my stove. Back in the summer, we were tossing around ideas on WaPo team about how to cover Thanksgiving in a year that’s unlike any other. We suspected this year might be the one when Thanksgiving, bound by pandemic and surging case numbers (exactly what’s happening at the moment) may not be one for large crowds, and on a lark I tossed out a sheet pan idea for a simpler, smaller gathering that would allow you to make the entire meal on one baking sheet and not spend days on various components. The idea stuck and got traction, and we unveiled it last week. I’m enormously proud of what we did there, and just look at those recipes, photos, and graphics! And if you’re still unimpressed, we even built out a choose-your-own-adventure pie generator, authored by the talented Erin Jeanne McDowell!

For my part, I went with a sheet pan duck brushed with a marmalade-ginger glaze, replete with hand-torn croutons, roasted grapes, figs, and other goodies. Duck felt festive enough for a holiday and appropriate for our small household of three humans.

When testing the duck, I wound up with about several duck necks, which I dutifully saved, and today was the day to unearth all the necks plus a giant gallon-sized Ziploc of my vegetable scraps. Some of that stock will be gravy and the rest will be boiled down to become demiglace, to be added to whatever one desires demiglace in. Ask me another time; I can’t remember. Lest you think I’m fancy making demiglace, I’ll confess I’m flat out of freezer space, I choose the concentrated fancy French item for some future need rather than space-hungry stock.

Making stock from bits and bobs floating about your freezer feels comforting and ritualistic. It’s simple, elemental, there’s no recipe for it, which I love. Just throw it all together and cover it with water. Let it all simmer for hours and hours until it reduces and grows deep and flavorful. When you taste it, it should taste of nourishment and as it it’ll cure you of everything. The ingredients’ last gasp is one of wonder — you get a tremendous amount of flavor from things many normally discard.

A few of you asked me on Instagram to document my Thanksgiving dinner. I will probably be offline and spending time with my favorite humans and fur babies, but if there’s a Thanksgiving emergency of sorts, please DM me on Instagram, and I’ll try to respond soonest. Our menu will be pared down: a small turkey (Avi asked for a whole turkey, which he claims is his favorite food); a butternut squash-onion with tahini and za’atar side from JERUSALEM, which is a Thanksgiving staple at our table; a shaved Brussels sprouts salad with apples, walnuts and pomegranate; creamy mashed potatoes, plus gravy and cranberry sauce. For dessert, I was thinking of an apple galette, but Jessie Sheehan went and posted about a cranberry galette, and, well, there goes my plan!

read: This Times op-ed made me go down the rabbit hole looking at the origins of religious right (originally, it wasn’t abortion but segregation, that galvanized the movement) as well as that there was a time when evangelicals didn’t oppose abortion in the way they do now.

The pandemic effect on marriage & divorce. And also this: Moms are the default childcare providers when schools are close. Admittedly one of the links is old, but I find the two events connected and even enough to argue for causality. I can rail against the patriarchy, society that places more value on a man’s work than a woman’s; I can voice deep discontent about living in a country where childcare is not a priority for the government at large while we’re told that life is sacred and begins at conception but somehow stops being sacred once that life is out of the womb and is born. The tsunami of pandemic-related issues is hitting women hard, hitting poor women harder, and hitting poor minority women the hardest. When we contemplate equality, we need to contemplate the systemic inequality built into the everyday that permeates everything we do.

cook: For awhile, I was making this chia seed pudding on repeat and then I abruptly stopped when work got intense. I’m starting it up again. I am not a dedicated breakfast eater, and I don’t get hungry until about late morning. This tastes nourishing and filling, and is a cinch to make. I usually start stirring it all together while cleaning up after dinner, and keep on stirring every 5 to 10 minutes while I putter about the kitchen. For while, I was adding bee pollen to top the pudding; I went through a period of raspberries and pepitas (my favorite). It’s easily customizable, requires no cooking, and is friendly to all kinds of eating regimens/allergies.

chia seed pudding
2/3 cup almond-coconut milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
Fresh raspberries and/or raw pepitas and/or topping of your choosing (optional)

In a 12-ounce jar, whisk together the milk, chia seeds and maple syrup until combined. Let sit and continue to whisk every 5 minutes or so for about 20 minutes. Cover, then refrigerate overnight. When ready to eat, add your favorite toppings.

hot water with lemon - I make this a lot when the weather turns colder and I shrink back from drinking ice water. Lemon makes it feel more restorative and delicious, and I go through about 1 lemon each day this way. I slice one in the morning, and once I’m done with my coffee, I keep boiling water and squeezing in a lemon wedge, which I then leave in the cup to float and flavor the water further as well as cheer me up with its sunshiny brightness.

I hope your holiday week is calm and restful. If you’re not feeling Thanksgiving this year, no shame in order takeout (no cooking, plus you’re supporting a restaurant), or staying in your sweats all day. Above all, I hope you are all healthy and taking care of yourselves.

until soon,
olga