What does family mean to you? I know that to most of us, family refers to your immediate unit — your parents, children, siblings, and spouse. That’s probably what you think of when you bring up an image of your family. Then there’s your extended family — your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. These are people who may be very close to you, or complete strangers whose only connection to you is your bloodline. Then there are the people who aren’t officially your family, but who feel like they are — your childhood friends, your parents’ childhood friends, and other people who you so completely trust that the fact that your relations are based on something more abstract doesn’t take away from them being an extension of your family.
I come from a rather small family. There’s me. Then there’s my mom and dad. Their mom and dad (though my paternal grandmother and maternal grandmother are both passed). Then there’s my mom’s sister and her daughter. Three years ago, I married Matt and he became my family. And, with that bond, his family became my family. There are lots of people in both our family trees whose names and faces I occasionally recognize, or whom I’ve met here and there throughout my life. But, by and large, many of these people are strangers.
Every Thanksgiving, we celebrate food, drink, and family. The history of this holiday isn’t something I’ve spent much time considering since my grade school days. Perhaps that’s not right, but ultimately, Thanksgiving is my excuse to enjoy the people I care about, think about what I am grateful for in this world, and remind myself not to take these good things for granted.
I used to think that the difference between your friends and your family is that, in addition to not being able to choose your family, you also can’t dismiss them from your life. Unlike friends who may come in and out of your life, your family sticks with you. They never fade into the background. Never stop calling you, nagging you.
As an adult, I’ve since discovered that this is not always true. Because as with friends, family takes effort, patience, and compromise. And while your family (blood or not) may more openly accept you and your eccentricities, forgive you when others won’t, and go beyond the reasonable level of effort to help you out, they can also let you down, just like everyone else. And you can let them down, too. Get too wound up in your own affairs, refuse to swallow your pride, or simply decide that a relationship isn’t worth the effort. Whatever those important relationships are in your life — whether they’re with your family or people who might as well be family — they require more than just a unspoken agreement to keep on going. Sometimes they require the humblest of apologies, the acceptance that there are things you cannot change, no matter how hard you try, and a lifelong commitment to make it work.
As another Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationships with my family and the people who might as well be. I’d like to learn to be more patient, more humble, more giving, and more thankful for them, everything they do for me, the tremendous support they provide, and the amount of joy they bring into my life with their hugs, phone calls, stories, and successes. At a time when my world seems like it’s about tip and my sense of self hangs in the balance, I cannot imagine being a whole human without you. I am thankful for you.
This delicious side dish comes from Sara’s book, and and was the perfect thing to bring to our friends’ annual pre-Thanksgiving potluck. It’s also on my Thanksgiving menu as a healthy and easy side that I think will complement some of the heavier fare on the table.
Here’s to the start of a great holiday season!
Roasted Acorn Squash with Hazelnuts and Balsamic Reduction
adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen
A few notes: I reduced the amount of balsamic vinegar called for in the original recipe. If you’d like, use one cup, but I found 3/4 cup to be plenty. I also served this dish cold for a potluck, but imagine it is equally, if not more, delicious served warm. If you don’t have hazelnut oil on hand, and prefer not to go out searching for it, you can simply use olive oil. While I was making the recipe, I wasn’t convinced the crème fraîche was needed, but after spreading some on my squash, I knew it was the perfect addition, both for its flavor and texture.
2 medium acorn squash
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 tablespoons of hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup of crème fraîche
fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup of toasted hazelnuts, skinned and roughly chopped
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the stems and both ends of your squash, then slice each squash in half, lengthwise, scoop out and throw away the seeds.
2. Cut each half into 4-6 wedges (I cut each half into approximately 6 slices, to serve more people).
3. Spread the squash slices and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use your hands to rub the oil into the squash until it is evenly coated.
4. Bake the squash, tossing once, for about 25 minutes, or until it is soft and lightly browned on the edges.
5. Make the balsamic reduction while the squash is roasting: add the vinegar to a small saucepan and heat it over medium heat, gently boiling until it is reduced by half (this should take approximately 10 minutes). Be careful not to let it cook too long as Sara says, “if you let it boil too long, it will be impossible to pour.”
6. When the squash is done, make the garlic crème fraîche. Add the crème fraîche to a small bowl, add just bit of pepper, and squeeze the garlic cloves out of their shells directly into the bowl. Use a fork to mash the garlic into the crème fraîche until it is thoroughly incorporated.
7. If you’re serving individuals, place several slices of squash on a plate, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with hazelnuts and a few oregano leaves. Top with a dollop of creme fraiche. If you’re serving a crowd, as I did, place squash slices on a platter and top with hazelnuts and oregano leaves. Wait until everyone sits down to eat to drizzle the platter with balsamic vinegar and serve the crème fraîche on the side.
Musical Pairings: Window Twins – Wish + Roasted Acorn Squash with Hazelnuts and Balsamic Reduction
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