Tag Archives: gratitude

Ham Gratitude


The problem with simplifying your house and life to such an extent that you only have three forks and two pans (https://masterbard.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/simple-times-three/)  becomes radically apparent when you try to cook a traditional Western Christmas feast in South Korea, using a kitchen equipped with two small burners, a toaster oven, and a microwave.

I know, this is still very much a ‘first-world problem’ here.  I don’t have to feed my child plantain stew over a fire made from goat dung, or even just try to create an edible faux burger from lentils and mustard seed.   And in fact, one of the reasons I so dramatically cut down my possessions, at least in the kitchen to this point, was to try to honour a new life-policy that involves less consumption – both in the metaphorical sense and the literal.   But yes, I’m also wanting to balance that with moving away from a scarcity mentality to one of abundance…a shift that has to happen in the head and heart, a shift that involves gratitude for the things already so blessed with.   So… bearing in mind that this is the kind of feast that happens only seasonally for us, and that we are celebrating the return of the sonshine, let me tell you how – and why – our Christmas dinner turned out.

There were only the three of us as family around the table.  We had a *ham* as the centrepiece of the meal, which doesn’t sound all that special until you understand that my ten-year-old daughter, taking her first bite of it, chewed meditatively and then informed us that it was ‘interesting…sort of a cross between samgyopsal and Spam…’   Yes, dear reader, our household, having lived in Korea for more than half our married lives, is more familiar with Korean belly-bacon and processed pork product than it is with the taste and texture of genuine ham.  It was a treat as rare as lobster or lamb or caviar might be for you, and savoured with bliss.

  I did it up with a classic brown-sugar-dry-mustard glaze, tweaked with pineapple juice, fresh mandarin juice, herb salt, and plumped raisins, then garnished with mini pineapple rings and mandarin segments.  Complex and intense sweet flavour on the outside, succulent savory inside.  Ahhhh.

Homemade sage-and-onion stuffing, from my thirty-five-year-old recipe…crusty on top, soft and fluffy beneath, with grated apple, onion, more raisins, and four kinds of bread.  Steamed broccoli tossed with garlic-and-herb-and-cream-cheese.  Dried cranberry-in-bokbunja/mandarin sauce (bokbunja is a Korean black raspberry cordial that resembles cherry brandy).   Stewed apples, by husband’s special request, with cinnamon and just a dash of Bailey’s Irish Cream.   Golden squash slices, glazed and shriveled into sweet single morsels.  A baked potato (just for me), flaky and steaming, filled with homemade yoghurt-spinach dip.

The pineapple was the only thing out of a can in that meal, and the colours and flavours were a pleasure to eye and mouth.  A child’s prayer began it and sighs of satisfaction ended it.  Abundance.  Left-overs. Pleasure. Christmas breaking of bread together.  Smiles.  Gratitude. Ham. 


May your Christmas dinner, your solstice meal, your Kwanzaa celebration, or your Feast of Lights, no matter what you have to eat for it, be as nourishing to body and soul.  May it be with the people you care about.  May there be light and love around the table.

 (and, as my daughter added in her prayer, ‘thank you for cats.’)



Yellow Chrysanthemums


I bought myself flowers today – for the first time ever.

Sarah Jenks, over at http://sarahjenks.com/, is running her 28-day  ‘Live More, Weigh Less’ challenge, and I signed up.  I won’t repost her wonderful ideas here, except to say that her very first day’s challenge was to purchase flowers for yourself.  Because you’re beautiful, and worth it.

So  I thought about it, and I realized: I’ve bought flowers for my mother, for my mate, even for my daughter’s first grade graduation.  And I’ve received a few bouquets in my time (my husband knows I’d prefer a block of really good cheese, or that electric drill I had my eye on, or the new Lackey e-book…)   But I’ve NEVER bought flowers just for me.

So, just a few days after my 44th birthday, and on the second day of a new semester (teaching ESL in South Korea, in case you haven’t already discovered that about me)  I drove down the block, waved a 10 000 KRW bill (about ten dollars Canadian) at the little old florist, and explained cheerfully that I was buying flowers for me, and no, I didn’t want them arranged or tied up with ribbon and gaudy paper, or a vase.  Just ten bucks worth of flowers, please.

I got a bunch of bright yellow mini-mums and a bundle of leatherleaf fern for that; crisp, simple, and long-lasting.   Then I quite ruthlessly snipped the long stems with their rank green leaves away from the flowers, shortened up the ferns, and used three of my French jampots as vases.  One cheerful arrangement in the kitchen window, with a green moss bunny looking on.  One in the bedroom, beside my Korean wedding ducks in their simple wooden livery.  And one out in the dining nook to light up the supper table.   Yellow Chrysanthemums

I smile, just thinking about the sunny faces of those humble chrysanthemums, and the way they reflected the sunlight this mellow end-of-summer afternoon.  I smile, wondering what other abundances I have to look forward to, what deeper awareness will be asked of me.  I grin at my computer screen, gratitude overflowing.

I’m done with the day, here in South Korea, ready for bed; the morning is just coming for many of you in North America.  It will be a day for flowers.