Thanksgiving: Gratitude, Good Friends, Good Food

Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays that I hijacked out of New York, because it’s about gratitude, good friends and good food! In order of importance, here’s what makes a great thanksgiving:

1. The guests. Invite people for whom you are grateful, and let them know.
2. The turkey. The bigger the better, as long as it fits in the oven.
3. The stuffing. Here’s my mix: sautéed lardons, sautéed union, sautéed garlic, sautéed mushrooms, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, cranberries, chopped red apples, chopped celery, chopped cooked chestnuts, and rosemary crutons soaked in Sherry.
4. Drown the bird. Pour Sherry on the roasting turkey at least every 20 minutes.
5. The gravy: reduced heavy cream, red wine, chicken stock, some cranberry jelly, and the juice from the roast turkey.
6. Side dishes. Lots of roasted sweet potatoes, haricot certs, creamed spinach, couscous, whatever you fancy.
7. The food coma. Make time to doze off, ideally by a fire.
8. Think of more to be grateful for.


2011: The Power of the Alphabet

Dear Clients, Friends, and Family,

2011 has been a year of global transformation and individual change for so may people, forces that continue to influence each other, and we have yet to see in which direction. While observing a group of first graders in Iraq learning to write the letter A in English class, I was reminded of how challenging it once was to produce a simple word, let alone a sentence. I am sure you all remember. Imagine if you had never learned. Who would you be? Whose stories would make up your truth? Those children I observed were among the lucky 21% of Iraqi children who are in school – the rest are increasingly recruited into militias. In a season so highly associated with gratitude and moral reflection regardless of our spiritual practice, and as US troops exit Iraq, the question I ponder is when so much violence is committed in the name of religion, what else would bless these children with a moral framework if not at least the ability acquire knowledge?

I pay much gratitude to those of you who have been part of this year and I wish you all a most joyful holiday season. I look forward to sharing more memorable experiences in the year to come.

Kind wishes,

Katinka Nicou

Taking Less For Granted

On this day, 10 years ago, I woke up in my New York apartment to the shock of the World Trade Center attack.

Within a few hours, New Yorkers pulled together with a team spirit out of this world. Ethnic, national and socio-economic differences completely collapsed as gracefully as the twin towers. A river of Manhattan day workers from corporate executives to pretzel vendors flooded the streets like a band of brothers with no place to go but sticking together. The hospital rejected me and a room full of other volunteers because they only needed people who spoke Cantonese or Hebrew. Thousands of people could not go home that night, Manhattan’s bridges and tunnels were closed, there was no traffic, the streets were silent. In one day, the always stuffed shelves of the supermarket were half-empty, and wherever you went you couldn’t escape the sickening smell of rotting garbage and burned skin. At least 20 expatriate friends gathered at my house for dinner and despite having known each other for years it was as if we were meeting all over again. A lot of lives were lost, but 9/11, one September day, brought all New Yorkers closer to themselves and to each other. Schools and hospitals and infrastructure untouched, within a week, my classes at NYU resumed, people were back at work, yellow cabs were speeding up and down the avenues and joggers lined the Central Park reservoir.

I wonder – if the attacks would not have stopped, if the stores had not been refilled, if people had not been able to go back to work – how long the team spirit would have lasted. Today I think of those who haven’t been able to go home for years, those to whom a suicide attack is less of a surprise than being able to turn on a light bulb at night, those who cannot even buy the very few items on the shelf of their local food store, those who can not go to school or work and take it for granted as their given right to progress in life. No wonder they are fighting. And no wonder military intervention has done nothing to stop them. Today I’m taking even less for granted.