A taste for the future, with deep thanks for the past
The oven I now call mine bakes a little high. I remind myself that in my pioneer grandmother's day, there was no such thing as an oven you turned to 350 degrees. I coax the oven to bake bread. I can do this.
And, like my grandmother, Girtha Pearl Smith, I count my blessings.
I have come to see that in the overall scheme of things, an accurate oven is not the most important thing in life.
Not just on Thanksgiving Day, but on every day of the year, Grandma began her grace at table with thanks to a higher power "for your kind, protecting care over us." Later in the prayer, she got down to specifics, such as hay being safe and dry in the barn, corn gathered in.
Like her, I am thankful. I am thankful for the baymen who harvest Peconic Bay scallops, and for cheesemakers Art Ludlow and his cows at Mecox Bay Dairy in Bridgehampton, and Karen and Michael Catapano and their goats in Peconic. I give thanks for wine made from the grapes of Shinn Estates, Wölffer Estates, Paumanok and dozens of other wineries. I give thanks for eggs laid by honest hens that belong to my friends Dan Morris and Marilyn England in Center Moriches, and for Thanksgiving turkeys from Makinajians in Huntington. I am grateful for apples from Richters Orchard in East Northport, and the hours that Andy Amsler, an owner, has spent spinning me yarns. I am thankful for Sang Lee Farms in Peconic, Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, Hamlet Organic Garden in Brookhaven, Restoration Farm at Old Bethpage Village Restoration, Garden of Eve Organic Farm in Riverhead, for all the other small farms that have sprung up in recent years.
I give thanks for the loyalty and labor of my Missouri family, who tend the homestead built by my grandfather, Girtha's husband, Kirby, and run cattle on the land.
I am thankful to John Ross, chef and author, who led the way in celebrating Long Island's bounty. I give thanks for the wild blueberries of the pine barrens, and for summer corn and tomatoes.
I am grateful for friends who have stood by me through thick and thin, and for the sweet companionship of animals.
I am thankful for the many wonderful and sometimes wacky experiences I have had while writing this column: seeing people-grade dog biscuits served on silver trays to dogs and their owners at the Russian Tea Room in Manhattan, meeting the man who chose the cow that became Borden's Elsie, crabbing at night with Artie Hoernig of Artie's South Shore Fish & Crab in Island Park, fishing for bluefin tuna off the coast of Harwich, Mass.
You might wonder why I'd leave my Thermador double oven for a single one that is cranky. Readers, I did it for love and butter beans.
I have moved to North Carolina, where my fellow is. Our fish comes from a different part of the coast. There are well-stocked farmers' markets, where, for 50 cents extra, they'll shell the butter beans for you. There's locally raised grass-fed meat, smokin' pit barbecue, shrimp and grits and plenty of collard greens.
So this column is my last. Thank you for reading. Some of you sent me your treasured recipes, and some of you even sent your old cookbooks. You sent encouraging words. Most of all, thank you for telling me your stories. I miss you already.
Stone-ground grits take longer to cook, but the difference is well worth it.
1 cup grits, not instant, preferably stone-ground
4 cups water
Salt, to taste
Butter or grated Cheddar cheese for serving
1. In a large saucepan, combine grits, water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil.
2. Lower heat, cover and cook 35 to 40 minutes over low heat, stirring now and then. Add more water, if necessary; you don't want the grits to be too thick and gummy. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed. Serve hot, with cheese or butter. Makes 4 servings.
Note Stone-ground grits may be purchased from Carolina Grits & Co., 252-977-7655. or from atkinsonmilling.com.