Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I'm bringing a dark chocolate cheesecake to our extended family's Thanksgiving feast this year, as well as a pumpkin pie. While I love pumpkin pie, and always save room for it on this holiday, I have to say: the cheesecake will make the pie feel bad about itself, it is such a show-off. We discovered the recipe for it through friends on Facebook last year, and every time we make it, we wonder why anyone would ever eat any other food. People who don't normally like cheesecake seem to love it, people who don't normally like chocolate cheesecake seem to love it—it has a magical effect on those who try it, turning them from skeptics into solemnly quiet eaters, having sacred moments with each bite. I'm guessing the secret is the ganache topping, a creation that must have first been published in the Holy Spirit's cookbook.

I thought about doctoring the cheesecake a little bit to make it a bit more autumny, more Thanksgiving-specific. I've guessed that adding cinnamon to the crust and/or filling would be good for awhile, and other fall tastes like nutmeg, allspice, etc. seem like they would be lovely with the bittersweet chocolate. I even tested this theory by making fall-spiced muffins the other day with bittersweet chocolate chips, the same kind of chocolate chips I use in the cheesecake, and they were, indeed, delicious.

The cheesecake is in the oven now, and as I type, I keep finding spots on my arms, my shirt, and my fingers where the chocolate has left its mark. In the end, I left the recipe as is—why mess with a winner, especially before a big holiday? The thing is already transcendent, how could I improve it? As I lick away all the excess chocolate from my digits—yeah, I'm not wasting any of this—I know I made the right choice.

I love Thanksgiving, because Thanksgiving means family. I love seeing all of our aunts, uncles and cousins, and Thanksgiving is always the first opportunity to do this in a long time, as the start of the school calendar brings on so much busyness in the fall. In some ways, Christmas feels like a follow-up visit to Thanksgiving, applying presents and extra cookies like spackle to the conversation gaps that inevitably come because, let's face it, all of you just caught up with each other a month ago at Thanksgiving, so unless something big happened in December, the milestone stories have been told. Our families are F-U-N, though; big and funny and a blast, and we honestly don't need any excuse to make a get-together a riot.

Thanksgiving is also food, and food, to me, is...well, I'm not obese because I have an alcohol or gambling problem, let's just say that. I love food, I love making food, I love eating food, I love sharing food; I also hate food, I hate the way I relate to food, I hate the way that eating in front of others makes me feel about myself.

So, yeah it is true, as I've gotten bigger, Thanksgiving has gotten more complicated. Along with my eagerness to get in my car to go see everyone, I have a trepidation that starts a spinning monologue in my mind. That run of thoughts sounds something like this, only less linear, more muddled:

1) I'm bigger than last year, everyone will notice that I'm bigger.
2) I wanted to be smaller. I'm not. I thought I would be. I'm not. I'm worried. They'll be worried. They'll be worried about my health, but too worried to tell me. I don't need to be told, because I'm really worried, too.
3) I hate that they are going to notice. I know everyone will notice. I hate that I will be that lady who keeps getting bigger. I tried to fix this and I failed again, and now I'm that lady who keeps getting bigger, not the hero who fixes her problems.
4) Will they watch me eat? Will they look at my portions?
5) What if I take small portions?  Will they be relieved?
6) Will they notice that I am upset about being bigger? Will they see the worry in my face about being with people who haven't seen me in awhile, people who may notice the change in my appearance more sharply?
7) I love them, I don't want to disappoint them.
8) I'm so disappointed in myself.
9) I can't go. I can't go. I can't go.
10) I love them. I don't want to miss seeing them. I'll go. I'll go. I'll go.

It's a quagmire in that brain of mine.

I'm guessing, though, that there is a complicated tumble in a lot of people's brains, especially during the holidays. Maybe it isn't food, at least not as acutely. Maybe it is drinking, or seeing a relative with whom you've had a conflict, or going back to a hometown that made you feel small or helpless. I don't know. Maybe you've had a rough year financially, and it is too painful to share, even though you know others know. Maybe someone has passed away, and you still feel like pieces of yourself—the parts that make you buoyant and bubbly and ready for holiday cheer—have been displaced with grief and heaviness. Maybe it is a little of everything—food troubles and money troubles and relationship troubles—none of them remarkable on their own, but taken together just enough to roll that boulder over the top of the hill, and make the mind start racing.

Living is complicated, and thinking doesn't always help. I wish it did, but it seems to be the problem in situations like this.

Yeah, I'm physically bigger. I'm the biggest I've ever been, and it is truly awful. I'm doing what I can, and it may or may not be enough. Doctors are involved. I'm working hard. That's all I can really say about it. Thinking more about it—and thinking about what others think about it—is only painful, in no way a help.

So, join me, everyone out there with a racy brain—not the fun kind of racy, I'm afraid—and just show up. Laugh. Eat cheesecake, or whatever holy offering there is at your table. Be with the people who love you. If they say something wonderful, take it in. If they say something hurtful, especially if they have no idea they have done so, don't think about it. Okay, you may think about—I know I would—but when you do, try what I have been doing, and just remind yourself you don't have to hold onto that thought, it may not be true, and it doesn't have to live your brain.

This year, I'm bigger, but I'm bigger than my thoughts, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  See you on Friday.


  1. Well done Kori. You are bigger than your thoughts, and you don't have to go into your mind alone. The Big Guy always loves you and he's awesome in scary places like dark alleyways, deep crevices of self-doubt, and Beiber concerts.

  2. (I'm so sorry I'm so slow to read and comment - I'm working on getting caught up with my blog reading!) This is a great piece. I think many people - including yours truly - can relate with the love-hate relationship with food. And with the not wanting to show up somewhere bigger than before. It is really, really tough. Your honesty is refreshing. And I bet that cheesecake was to die for.