Wow! Tears came streaming down my face as I watched this incredible film about the Grab tradition of the Laguna Pueblo. Bigger than Thanksgiving. Bigger than Christmas. Blending Pueblo and Roman Catholic practices to support community on the reservation. Bringing back the young people — and not so young — who moved away.

A potmaker, a gardener, a history teacher, a senior center. Everyone together.

This one will go on the shelf next to the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

Different Music for the Halloween/Thanksgiving/Hannukah/Christmas/New Year’s Part of the U.S. Year

My reaction to Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving — much less before Halloween — has been changing. A lot. This is an attempt to get a handle on what’s going on inside.

First, the facts:

I am a Unitarian Universalist minister not working in ministry, but caring for a fiancee with a serious medical condition. We live far away from my family of origin, and her illness has prevented me from seeing my aging parents and blossoming nephews and nieces — not to mention my siblings — for over a year.

Because it can be confusing to accept that all religious traditions have spiritual meaning, I have pretty much settled my liturgical life around Earth-centered paganism and the Jewish/Christian religions. This directly ties me in with my ancestry, which is Anglo-Saxon (NO Celt or Gaelic). My family has Asian and African-American members, and their traditions inform me deeply as well.

And here’s a shout-out: to Doug Shaheen, who gave me probably the best spiritual advice I ever got. (It could be that people go into ministry because the laity has the lion’s share of spiritual wisdom and we want to gather it for ourselves, eh?) We were talking one October, and he said the next thing was Halloween and then starting the Christmas cards.

“What?” I rebuked.

“Yes, I’ve got a lot of cards to send. So I get them out in October, and start addressing envelopes, writing cards, just two or three a night, while we’re watching tv or something.”

Obviously, that stayed with me. It took root. It has blossomed. And now I know what he was talking about.

All Saints and All Souls are not two days on the highway to Jesus, they are, for a true humanist, the high point of the year. (Thank you, Universalism, for liturgies about this. Boo, Unitarianism, for trying to level it away.)

And like any high point, they need a season coming and going, and this season needs its story and its music.

It turns out the wider wisdom is way ahead of us clergy on this one. When I googled “Music for All Saints,” the playlist was all about friends. Lost friends. Living friends. Friends in the family. Friends we wish we’d treated differently. Friends we know we want to see again.

Having worked retail for many years, I appreciate the strategy of using music to prod latent shopping impulses. But “Christmas” music has gotten harder to find, because it has to be scrubbed of theological content, and family/regional/cultural traditions vary widely.

But, boy, what if November 1 became the day all the stores started playing songs about friends? Because that’s who we shop for most passionately, our family and friends. And that’s something that no culture denies or devalues. There are tons of songs about friends. All generations. All volumes. All rhythms. All poetry styles.

When I first listened to this playlist, due to my isolation, due to my commitment to my partner (who has just walked in asking for breakfast), it hurt too much to complete. And I HATE to fly, so I dread the new unfriendly skies that await.

But that didn’t last. The focus now shines. It wiggles its toes in deep soil and tickles my innards.

So here’s what I want to put together: A calendar of readings — scriptures, poetry, whatever — that will start mid-October and carry through until American Thanksgiving. Needless to say, it will have lots of Hebrew Bible, because that’s where the Bible most fully talks about human relationships. It will have Christian longings about being together again.

And it will have much better music.

Cooking like a Unitarian

Well, I guess I grew up lucky, because my grandfather always had tomatoes and such in the backyard garden, and even when he was a James P. Duke Professor, he put his own salad on the table. My dad has always saved whatever could be reused — much to the despair of my mother. But she could cook up a storm, thanks to her mother.

So here are my tried-and-true vegetarian cookbooks:

Please note that it takes several years to really work your way into and through a cookbook. And then you will get tired of your favorite recipes, and it’s time to move on to another.

Always remember to make enough to freeze to put about two serving-sized containers in the freezer.

Williams Sonoma put out a series of little highly-focused cookbooks, which are probably the absolute biggest bang for the buck of any I own. After twenty years, I still use the one about potatoes incessantly, almost weekly. Liesl will be happy to know that it has more ways than you could imagine to use cheese and potatoes. This was the place I first learned that it’s worth it to shell out the money for special types of cheese. And the beans one is a true winner.

Also, it’s good to cook from other cultures, to use their own cookbooks, or those of their expatriates, if you can get them. My Asian cookbooks are from time living there, but if you word search Indian Cookbooks, you’ll get lots of answers.

Another heavily used book in my kitchen is this one:

If I had to have just one, it would be the Hardisty. Two, I would add the W-S Potatoes book.

Happy cooking. Now, if it would just get cold enough for you to turn on the oven!



There’s no place where I feel less like a lefty activist hippie than at a UU potluck.

In fact, when I look at all those mysterious bowls of exotic grain salads and veggie-laden casseroles, I feel like the one thing I can’t admit is that I’m a meat and potatoes kind of cook.

Fortunately, Liesl’s tastes are solidly Midwestern, a good match for the farmer’s daughter cooking I learned from my mother, who grew up in southwestern Ontario.

But I’ve discovered at UU potlucks that I like exotic grain salads and veggie-laden casseroles.

I just don’t know how to make them.

cookbooksSo, hey there, UU cooks (and other lefty activist hippies). I have these two cookbooks that I’d like to use as a primer for learning your kind of food. I suspect you’ve heard of them.

Do you have a favorite recipe from either of them? If so, please share.

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