I tried. I really tried to think about all the things for which I need to thank you. I tried to list them down. I tried to organize them into neat categories, so that I knew I’d have three main thanksgivings to share during tonight’s Thanksgiving dinner.
I tried. And I failed.
Because for each thanksgiving I remembered, a whole ocean of other thanksgivings will flow—and I get choked with tears of gratitude, overwhelmed and stunned speechless by your abundant grace, love, and faithfulness you’ve shown me, day after day.
I know I haven’t been the best daughter. I don’t always call you, I disobey you, I get mad at you for mistakes I’ve made, and I fight with my brothers and sisters.
But thank you, for always being the best father to me. When I fall and cry, you rush over to pick me up, nurse my wounds, wipe my tears.
When I stray away from you, you send me constant text messages that can be annoying at times, but secretly comforting in the knowledge that you still care for me and are waiting for me to come back.
When I feel tired and weary, you feed me the sweetest nourishment through your Words, let me rest in your spirit, and you send angels in the form of people to make me laugh.
When I’m feeling peaceful and happy, you’re beside me holding my hand, kissing it and assuring me that you still have many more blessings in store for me.
Dear God, you already know that I love you. You already know I adore you, worship you. But I want to say it again. And again, and again, so that I profess to the universe that I am eternally yours. So that I can never forget what you have done for me.
By the way, this is a bit awkward since you’re right now fully aware of me reading this letter even as I type it. It’s no fair that I can’t ever surprise you with nice things, while you surprise me daily with sweet gestures and words.
But I suppose I can do the same by doing the same to others. Lord knows, I have received too many gifts from others as well. On that note…
I thank you God, for my family, in spirit and blood:
For my parents, for their sacrifice and unconditional love for me.
For my brother, who is the best brother I could ever ask for, and more.
For my church brothers and sisters all over the world, who I am connected to in more ways than I can feel physically.
I thank you God, for my friends, old and new:
For my best friends, who make me happy. You know who you are.
For my new housemates, with whom I get along very well.
For my fellow bloggers, who have given me a lot more insight into life and friendships.
For my blog readers, who may be silent but leave me with fresh inspiration and motivation to be the best blogger I can.
For my new friends, who continuously remind me that there are so many great people, so little time.
I thank you God, for all the things in my life:
For my school, where I learned that I’m just a small fish in a big pond, but gives me the resources and knowledge to be…well, a slightly bigger fish.
For my editors, who were strict enough with my writing as to help me improve.
For my professors, whom I really admire and respect.
For the summer, which was the best freaking summer I had in my life.
For Foodbuzz, who gave me an incredible weekend at San Francisco.
For Twitter, where I meet cool people and make random conversations.
For Gchat, where I procrastinate, gossip, or lend an ear to people’s woes.
For the lemon tree at my backyard, so that it gives me constant excuses to make lemon buttermilk pound cake.
Oh, and God? Thank you for the best Thanksgiving dinner ever.
P.S. By the way, God, I’ve talked to you about this already, but please don’t forget about my friend Eden, who is going through some really tough times right now. Bless her and her dad. Amen.
Love and Hugs,
Your eternal daughter Sophia.
** My dear friend Eden has been doing a week-long series of “Thank You” letters to anything and anyone that inspired her to do so. This is me stealing her idea to thank the greatest person I know who deserves my biggest thanksgiving.
There are a billion reasons why this was the best thanksgiving ever, for more reasons than a handful. But here is the foodie reason why this was, gastronomically, the best Thanksgiving dinner ever.
First of all, I didn’t need to do a thing. All I had to do was bake a lemon buttermilk pound cake per my church friend Renee’s request. My other church friend Jessica picked me up. So all I really needed to do was change out of my sweatpants and make sure my stomach is kind of empty.
The dinner was at the lovely couple David and Elda’s house, the same place I went for last year’s Thanksgiving. The table was set up again, this time with my favorite squash, kabocha:
But this time, we couldn’t all fit into the table. There were about 22 people attending, so the house certainly warmed right up on this cold night!
I forgot to ask who did the decorations, but I loved the small, yet thoughtful touches everywhere.
We also had our own glasses, with our names on a tag to make us feel special:
And a lovely verse on the back!
“Always rejoice, unceasingly pray, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Since this is a Christian household in Los Angeles, where everyone has to drive in order to get anywhere, the alcohol was missing. But we had plenty of soda, apple cider, and cranberry juice.
But enough about boring drinks. I’d rather eat. And boy were there lots to eat. But we had to wait for about an hour longer, as we waited for the other guests to arrive. Thankfully, we had some roasted chestnuts to keep our appetites from biting into our arm: And a bear to nibble on if we got REALLY hungry…
Meanwhile, since I assigned myself as the photographer and reporter of that night, I slipped into the kitchen to take a picture of our master chef:
This is David, our young host. Right now he is stirring the gravy:
And that gravy will be poured on top of the most superfluous and mind-blowing Thanksgiving centerpiece ever:
You know what this is? Nope, not just a turkey. It’s a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey. It’s a TURDUCKEN! I know! It’s CRAZY! Google it, google it!
Because it was too big, it was split into half and placed on two plates across each other. I know. The idea is rather perverse and overwhelming, but hell it is GENIUS!!!!
There were even pieces of bacon in there. Basically, it’s meat stuffed with meat and more meat with more meat. A carnivore’s dream come true.
But before we could dig in, we had to thank the Lord, of course. That’s what this feast was all about. We all gathered around…
And my favorite preacher, Ben, said a few touching words…And both the hosts, David and Elda, prayed…
And we all took pictures…
And then we dug in!!
Now. First. Before I share my lovely dinner, I warn you, you’ll need a pad of napkin beside you.
Because. You. Are. Gonna. Drool.
Okay, first of all, Gruyere balls:
Puffy, cheesy, chewy. I thought they were biscuits at first, but they were something much more magnificent. I still don’t know what they are. I’ll have to ask the cook.
Dried Fruit and Nut Stuffing:
With figs, apricots, golden raisins, walnuts, pecans, sliced almonds, and a mix of white and brown bread.
Do I even need to reiterate what is screaming in your mind? This is just about the perfect marriage of Fall and Harvest food.
Sticky rice, Chinese-style:
With sausages, shitake mushrooms, fresh herbs, sesame oil and sesame seed.
I recognized this immediately as nuo mi, one of the nostalgic food of my past. Basically, it’s sticky, chewy glutinous rice stewed and mixed with ton of oil and umami-rich ingredients.
During Moon Festival or Dragon Boat Festival, this savory dish is stuffed into banana, pandan, or bamboo leaves, and formed into this triangle dumpling called Zong Zi. For once, this Asian dish was a welcome sight to an otherwise very American dinner.
My dear friend Renee made her famous 5-Cheese Mac & Cheese:
With Parmesan, Cheddar, Gouda, Gorgonzola, and Goat Cheese. Hello? Can you say heaven? I LOVED the chunks of goat cheese in there!!
Renee also made the best freaking corn pudding I’ve ever had:
The picture does the taste no justice! She actually hand-shucked all the fresh corn in there. And whipped egg whites to fold in, making the pudding incredibly light and fluffy.
I made her promise to send me the recipe, so I am definitely making this thing again. I’ll try to share the recipe when I do.
Another awesome cook in our midst, Jane, whipped up a bunch of dishes too. She made this fantastic brussel sprout hash:
With brussel sprouts, pecans, dried cranberries.
This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. Duh. It was crunchy, sweet, tangy, salty, nutty. Absolutely delicious.
Jane also made a freaking amazing roasted root vegetable dish, yet another favorite dish of mine:
With yucca, purple sweet potato, Japanese sweet potato, and orange sweet potatoes. This was the first time I was trying yucca, and now I’m hooked. I must get some tomorrow! Yes, tomorrow, I say!
As if that wasn’t enough sweet potato worshipping, she also whipped up a bowl of mashed yellow sweet potato:
She also made an incredible cranberry sauce:
It was sweet, yet spiked perfectly with wine. This might be the only dish where alcohol was served, and it went amazing with just about any of the dishes, not just the turkey (or turducken).
And of course, we can’t forget the centerpiece of the table, the Turducken, which David graciously sliced for us:
I still can’t get over the fact that I was eating turkey, duck, chicken, and bacon in one bite. Holy cow. Or should I say, holy fowl?
I know most of you would be curious about the cross-section of this super-stuffed bird, but this was the best shot I could get under the low lighting:
We also had a small bowl of fried duck skin:
This disappeared way too fast. It’s like chicharrones, but with duck. Damn.
By the way, Caronae, this picture is for you. I thought you might get a kick out of it:
This is my new friend, Linda, who Caronae introduced to me early in the semester. I finally met up with her for a McDonald’s ice-cream cone date about 2 weeks ago, and liked her instantly. Linda is passionate, intelligent, and incredibly driven—I was most impressed by her zest to serve God and people. I was hoping to meet her again soon, and guess who popped into the car seat next to me during our car pool ride to dinner?
Funny how the universe works. I had no idea we were actually hanging out with the same social circle. I was happy to see Linda again! We definitely have our differences though. Like, Linda loves dogs. And it was clear that dogs love her. That opposite is true for me.
It had been awhile since I got together with all my church friends like this. It just felt awesome to break bread with my brothers and sisters in Christ, catching up on all the wonderful things God had done in our lives.
Some of us broke out the Scrabble:
I love Scrabble, but I did not play; I just really wanted to chat with my friends. Or stay close to the dessert table. Hee hee hee.
As soon as the turkey table was cleared, we broke out the desserts. Here’s the lemon buttermilk pound cake I baked!
It’s the same cake I baked for Christina’s birthday.
We also had a cherry pie:
Surprisingly, this was pretty good, considering that I hate fruit pies. Maybe it’s just because I was in such a good mood, but everything tasted amazing to me. Or maybe it’s because it had this thick layer of cream cheese filling.
Renee, bless her heart, as if she haven’t already contributed enough freaktastic food, made two desserts. She made the obligatory, traditional pumpkin pie:
And the most luscious, sticky Chocolate Caramel Tart:
Holy crap. Dang this was sick!! It had a thick, buttery chocolate shortbread crust, with a gooey, sticky, auburn caramel filling, and then topped with rich, smooth chocolate ganache. It sounds really sweet, but it was not. A perfect balance of bitter chocolate and burned sugar.
And finally, we had good ol’ chocolate chip cookies:
I need the recipe for these. I didn’t care for the chocolate chips, but the cookie part of it was a delightful contrast of crunchy and chewy texture. I would rather have nuts than chocolate chips in there though.
As we slumped about, wiped out by food coma, someone broke out the guitar and the hymn books.
At that time I was quite ready to leave and change into waistband pants (Do NOT wear skinny jeans to a feast!!), but once the group starting singing, I couldn’t help plopping next to them and singing along.
This was my favorite moment of the night. Just sitting next to my spiritual brothers and sisters, praising God with beautiful music and awed voices, sharing our thoughts and stories.
It was the perfect finale to a perfect night, a perfect prelude to the many more days of thanksgiving ahead of us.
And now, I’m off to nurse my giant food belly. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. I know not everyone is lucky enough to have such a huge and abundant spread. There are more people in this nation who didn’t have a good dinner than those who did.
I admit, I’ve had it easy. It’s easy enough to give thanks to God when I’d just been fed good food, cared for by good people. I know there will be times when I lose sight of God’s blessings, and start worrying and stressing. There will be times when I feel like I’ve got no blessings, or when I feel like I don’t deserve any blessings.
Which is why it is so important for me, right now, to read that letter I wrote to God, over and over again. Even when things aren’t peachy, I’ll know God has never changed—only my mindset and perception. There is always something to give thanks for. And it is with this reminder of the importance of constant, unconditional gratitude, that I close this night, and lay my future to God’s hands.
Good night. And once again, Happy Thanksgiving…for as long as we live.
Question of the Day: If you were to write a “Thank You” letter, to whom or what would you write?
And are you traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving? What is the most creative Thanksgiving twist you had?
P.S. Please keep Eden and her dad in your prayers. Her dad had a brain hemorrhage yesterday and is still in the hospital. She didn’t get her perfect Thanksgiving dinner, but I pray that she will continue to find things to give thanks for.