turkey blues and therapeutic yeast

My Thanksgiving party went well. It was a more subdued crowd than last year, but it was fun to treat them to an American Thanksgiving and I hope that everyone had a nice time.

I think I left the turkey in too long and it was a little dry, but everything else seemed like it came out okay. This year I added a few new side dishes: mini cornbread muffins, little caramelized onions and a vegan dressing made with wild rice, squash, chestnuts and sage, which I ended up liking even better than the traditional giblet stuffing I do every year. There were tons of desserts.

It really was a nice little party, and I am so glad I had the chance to thank my trainer for everything he has done for me and my closest friends from the running club who have been so supportive all year long, but the happy glowy warmth of the party wears off before the dishes are done and this is always my most melancholy time of year. No matter how well things are going, how happy my boys seem, how sunny it has been all week, Thanksgiving is a take-stock kind of holiday and no matter how lucky I feel in this life I’ve carved out for myself, I still wonder if this is it for me.

On top of that all my races for the year are over and I am on strict orders to take it easy. I am allowed only short, easy runs, and it is hard not to stretch them longer, especially since I don’t even wear a watch to track my pace and I still have all that marathon training on my legs. Sometimes I feel like I could start out on my usual bike path and just keep going forever, but instead I turn around and come back home to my computer and work.

This week I have been feeling aimless and dissatisfied. That now what feeling? keeps growing, and I have been eating way too many leftovers. God. All that pie.

Luckily, about a month ago I had signed up for a class on how to cultivate your own yeast and I had almost forgotten about it. I have made all our bread using a bread machine and dry yeast for years, and despite being curious about natural yeast, not knowing much about it, I had never tried to make it. The class was last night, and I was glad to have a reason to get out one evening this week and be around new people, feel some new energy, learn something new. The two-hour lesson was the little shake I needed.

There were eleven of us, plus the teacher, and everyone grew quiet as we kneaded our flour and water and honey into soft, smooth balls of dough. “This is very relaxing,” someone noted, and we all murmured in agreement. “Natural yeast is sometimes used as a form of therapy,” our teacher then explained. “You take it home and feed it and watch over it, and some people find this very therapeutic.”

We each took home our own little ball of starter yeast and a page of instructions on how to keep it alive, plus a little cup of our teacher’s yeast baby, which she calls Costanza, and which she has cared for for over four years.

It was freezing out last night and I was on my bike, so I slipped Costanza and my yeast under my coat inside my fleece to keep them warm on the way home. Then I made little homes for them in my kitchen before going to bed, and this morning I checked on them first thing. They seemed to be doing what they are supposed to be doing. There were little air bubbles at the bottom of their glass containers. It was like bringing a baby home for the first time, only the yeast doesn’t wake you up at night.

We rushed off to school this morning – we were running late again, and as I was leaving to head back home there were some American moms talking on the sidewalk, about their Thanksgiving plans. One of them very graciously and generously invited the boys and me to her Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow after school.

I don’t know that she realized how much it meant to me to be able to share a real American Thanksgiving with her family, but this year it was just exactly what I needed. Not that I need more stuffing and pie, but that happy, glowy warmth and the sound of American chatter around the table, with my two boys seeing what Thanksgiving is about, that is exactly the right kind of therapy for me.

Something tells me though that without the training and with so many Thanksgiving meals and the delicious bread I will soon be baking, too much therapy night not be such a good thing.

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About Jennifer

I'm a freelance translator and American expat. I live in Northern Italy with my two young sons.
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2 Responses to turkey blues and therapeutic yeast

  1. OMDG says:

    Have you ever thought about doing something like going back to school? It might be another avenue for personal growth while keeping you from having too much alone time. Just a thought. I love what school has done for me, and my mom went back to get a masters in history when I was 11, and I don’t think she ever had any regrets about it.

    • Jennifer says:

      Actually, I do think about it a lot. Not medical school like you! And nothing even close to being as life-changing and challenging as that, but I would like to go back just for my own personal satisfaction. My job requires ongoing research, which I enjoy, but it would be stimulating and fun to have something more structured. Right now I do not have the time (or the money) to do something like that though. Online learning does not appeal to me very much and so I figure I will do it when my kids are just a little bit older.

      Hey, Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!

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