My favorite part of Thanksgiving? Stretching out on the carpet, in the middle of the living room floor, bemoaning the amount of food I just ate.
Growing up, we’d stack our plates, usually with an odd mix of traditional Thanksgiving food and Brazilian food (because you just can’t have a meal without white rice!), then eat and talk and eat and talk. At some point, one or two people would give up all hope of sitting upright and just beach themselves right there in the middle of the living room, belly-up, blissed-out, maybe asleep, hopefully drooling.
I loved how casual and comfy and homey this always felt—we were all family, and so why wouldn’t we take a nice little nap on the living room floor to ride out the turkey torpor? It’s the very opposite of fine dining, where people are continually telling me that I cannot put my head down on the table and take a little snooze next to the artisanal bread basket. (Very unfair.)
But Brazilians believe in naps. An afternoon nap on the weekend was a given in my house growing up, and I remember feeling mild culture shock that my all-American friends in college “weren’t nappers.” To me, that’s like saying you’re “not an eater,” or showers “aren’t your thing.”
A nap costs nothing, has no calories, doesn’t require any preparation, and is really enjoyable. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a nice dinner, especially one eaten at home in the vicinity of a soft surface. A nap is one of life’s simplest and most pure treasures, like pillow-y mashed potatoes and a hot cup of coffee. Naps are a way of life, and I’d bet good money the pilgrims took one after that first Thanksgiving. Thus, they are a sacred part of our tradition.
Another thing I’m almost positive the pilgrims did? Pulled out books and had a bit of a read after dinner. Sadly, this is now very discouraged in public settings, but it would make our country a better place, I think.
That’s why Thanksgiving is, by far, the best meal of the year. It’s a big, comfy family meal in which our primary goals are to eat our weight in mashed potatoes and then recline our way through what’s left of the day. If that’s not the perfect day, I just don’t know how to live.
So if it’s not already a tradition in your family to have a vigorous lounging session after the meal, then this may be the very year to start. You’ll need:
- a soft spot
- a full belly
- a glass of wine that you’re too full to even finish
- a pillow, if you’re in it for the long haul
Oh, and a book!
Times when it should be considered appropriate to read a book: while chopping (the sole reason audiobooks were invented!), while cooking, while eating, after eating, in between short naps, before bed, first-thing in the morning.
In case you agree with me (please?), here are some books that are perfect post-prandial reads, are significantly better than any and all types of football (a claim I’ve researched heavily), and will whisk you off on an adventure, a nap, or even a trip back to the table (god help you).
(By the way, I only recommend books I’ve read or that I’m genuinely excited about reading myself. Life’s too short to read mediocre books. But if you do feel like picking up one of these, it’d be great if you bought them through one of the Amazon Associate links below. It supports the many hours of work this team of two [me and Jarrett] put into this little corner of the web!)
Feeling up for a thought-provoking read? I applaud you, and I’ll step away and leave you with Jodi Picoult’s newest hit:
“Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.”
You might think reading about food so soon after performing such shameful acts of gluttony is perverse, but actually, this book will make you feel much, much better about what you just did. You are part of a long and noble line of indulgers, and no one will make you feel quite so proud (well, at least a little less guilty) about this as Laurie Colwin. “Turkey Angst” in particular, is a must-have on your Thanksgiving reading menu:
“In my opinion the poor turkey is a mere scapegoat for the mire of conflicted feelings flooding our psyches at holiday time. It is hard to divorce the turkey from the expectations of the family table, the sibling rivalries, the unspoken resentments, the secret rages that occur even in the happiest families. Add to this the exhaustion of travel or the exhaustion of preparing to welcome traveling relatives, and even the juiciest, tenderest turkey may be as sawdust. Of course, it is possible in the most harmonious family to produce a turkey that may as well be sawdust, just as it is also possible to produce a magnificent turkey in the middle of a family psychodrama. Either way you slice it, it may be easier to blame the turkey.”
Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day we pick up that whole exercising thing again. But because we’re still moving a little slow and gravy-addled in the brain, let’s take it nice and easy with a beautiful fall walk:
“Touching the earth with our feet is an opportunity to live in the here and now. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us to enjoy each step and each breath in order to regain peace in difficult moments. The simple practice of walking with attention and mindfulness can bring the spirit of prayer into our everyday life. This book will appeal to anyone who would like to get more out of walking, from long-time meditators to those who are just looking for a way to make their walk around the block more meaningful.”
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben
There are perpetually more books I want to read than I have time for, and there is perpetually more food I want to eat than I can find space for. Such is the cruelty of life. But for those of you who would still rather be humans than, say, trees, this is the book you’ve always wanted.
It’s also a great companion read to The Long Road Turns to Joy and will add even more depth to the simple art of walking in the woods.
“Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.
After learning about the complex life of trees, a walk in the woods will never be the same again.”
And for a family saga of a different sort, Ann Patchett will make even your weird Uncle Willy look like a gem of a guy. If you like books-about-books of any kind, Commonwealth will delight you and keep you happily enthralled through the rest of the weekend:
“One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.
Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.
When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.
Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.”
Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don’t Have to Be Vegan to Love by Terry Hope Romero
You know why.
What I’m Reading This Week:
The Cookbook as Spiritual Autobiography (Michael Brendan Dougherty for The Week): An interesting look at the newest cookbooks from Alton Brown and Anthony Bourdain and the life stories that run through them.
Marketing and Publishing Checklists for Writers (Jane Friedman): “When embarking on a process that is new or unfamiliar, often you don’t know what you don’t know. A checklist, at the very least, will help you recognize what you don’t know, so that many months later, you’re not beating yourself up for complete ignorance.”
A Free Printable Prioritizing To-Do List (Becky of Clean Mama): I love this simple checklist from one of my authors! As we turn the corner into the holidays, let’s make sure we don’t arrive at December 26th exhausted and full of regrets. You can make this season magical with simple little moments and time spent doing things you love, whether you perfectly wrap every gift or not. (By the way, Becky’s book Simply Clean is now available for preorder, and it is fantastic. If you’ve always dreamed of being a clean person, this is the book that will get you there!)
What We’re Eating This Week:
Monday: $6 burger night at Mason Social with friends! The best way to start the week.
Tuesday: My favorite pesto: Mario Batali’s Kale Pesto. Make it all year, make it in bulk, make it and freeze it–just make it! Find the recipe in America: Farm to Table or start with his base recipe and sub most of the basil for kale. Tonight we’ll pop it out of the freezer, toss it on some spaghetti, and boil a bit of broccoli on the side.
Wednesday: We’re packing up the car and driving to Ann Arbor for the weekend, so road food it is.
Thursday: The big day!! My mother-in-law is a phenomenal cook, and her Thanksgiving spread is legendary. I can’t wait.
Friday: Salad. You know why.