Give Thanks for This Simple Pleasure


LONDON — Delicious Thanksgiving dinners planned all around, I trust?

However relatively small the gathering, the fact that this year has been so unexpected makes sitting down for a familiar meal all the more important. One tradition I particularly love is everyone going around the table and saying what they are thankful for. I wonder how much of what people gave thanks for this year differs from other, more “normal” years.

It reminds me of a Thanksgiving tale a good friend shared with me a couple of years ago.


At her holiday meal, the kids were asked to kick things off. The first few offerings were what might have been expected (or what might, quietly, have been suggested to them by a parent): Thanks was given for a much-loved grandparent, perhaps, or favorite teacher. A new friend made or a long-trusted teddy bear.

A few parents gave thanks for health, happiness, partners sticking by them, love and all good things. Next was a boy who stood up, pushed his chair back and, tickled by his own wise words, boldly said: “I give thanks for Netflix because I love Netflix.”

A small pause, as everyone gauged the room — this could be the ultimate parental “busted” moment — before whoops of approval. Heck, yes! Let’s give thanks for television! To all the streaming services we collapse in front of every evening and the series we are entertained by. Bar duly lowered, the kids then proceeded to run with it.

“I give thanks for pizza,” one cheered.

“I give thanks for pasta-pesto,” another chimed in.


“Grilled cheese sandwiches,” a little one squeaked.

“Dough balls,” said another.

“Chocolaaaaate,” declared the smallest at the table before all were lost to the giggles.

I remembered that story recently, and thought those kids were on to something. It shouldn’t take a pandemic to make us realize that it’s the simple things in life that matter.

For many, though, 2020 will be the year that many a day was saved by the making of dough balls, the sharing of pizza, the comfort of pasta-pesto or grilled cheese (as well as Netflix).


This is my tribute — my giving thanks — to that feeling: to the making of something simple and communal, comforting and basic, with, hopefully, ingredients in your kitchen and maybe the little people in your house. In fact, making dough balls is a sort of child’s play and certainly one step up from Play-Doh. It’s just as therapeutic and fun, but rather more delicious to eat.

Here is to giving thanks for all the big stuff — to health and happiness and love — but, also, to tomato sauce and basil leaves and melted cheese. And, of course, to dough balls: to the pure, unadulterated joy of making, baking, eat-with-your-fingers-all-in-one-mouthful dough balls.

Recipe: Cheesy Bread Balls in Tomato Sauce

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