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Thanksgiving Again

This was the post I wrote back in 2008 around this time. Way back then I guess I hadn’t really tried to tie everything into a business theme as I do now. It’s just a reflection of how my family enjoys the routine and repetition of the day. 8 years further down the road, I realize that there is a good reason why having the same thing every year is a wonderful thing. Just about everything else I wrote about in the piece below has changed. People have moved and one has died. Houses have been sold and others have been bought. The kids are all grown now and are working and the rarity of everyone getting together has increased.

If there’s a business lesson in all of this, it just might be to appreciate the familiar moments and not to complain too loudly about routine. Rest assured that there will be enough chaos and change for everyone along the way. Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo

My family loves Thanksgiving.  For the most part, so do I.  The entire family getting together is not something that happens with great regularity anymore – grandparents winter in Florida, kids are in college or living their own lives, brothers and sisters and other relations have busy schedules too.  So when 20 or 25 of us can pile into one location, it’s special, and each gathering is unique.  Except for one thing.

Thanksgiving’s menu in my house is something that descended directly from the Pilgrims.  It is etched in two tablets made from the skin of the original bird (and we can have the discussion about whether that bird was in Plymouth or in St.Augustine another time).  Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and apricots, cranberry mold, cranberry bread, veggies, stuffing and gallons of gravy are pretty much it.

I cook every year and love to do it.  Except I can do it in my sleep at this point. I am under strict orders from all parties NOT TO FOOL (they use another word) WITH THE MENU.  The only choices I get to make are what kinds of stuffing and which veggies to serve.  But I don’t, really.

One year I caused a huge ruckus by announcing in advance (mistake) that I would be frying one of the birds (we usually have two).  The discovery of a cure for cancer would have caused less of a ruckus.  Of course, now a fried turkey is mandatory.  Another year I made four dressings – one a cornbread and andouille, one a sausage and herb, one an oyster, and one a vegetarian version that was very traditional.  Of course, only the last one was eaten up.  No more oysters (and don’t even start the discussion about that’s what the Indians ate) in the damn dressing and leave that andouille stuff south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Another year, I slow cooked the green beans with bacon.  “Darling, do you have any less cooked?  I’m not sure I know what I’m eating…”  Another year I served carrots with a tangerine glaze.  The next, I was berated for not serving carrots.

I’m writing this now because there are only two weeks to go and my Mom is asking if I’ve shopped yet (Mom is always ready well in advance).  I tell her I haven’t shopped because I haven’t planned the menu yet but who am I kidding?  The menu was done years ago.  I don’t have the heart to tell her I’m roasting the other bird in a Caja China and not an oven and that I’m seriously considering bringing back the cornbread thing.  But I’ll cook them whatever they want since having the family all together is more important to me than my exercising my chefly prerogatives.

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Most Read Posts Of The Year – Foodie Edition

It’s Foodie Friday and since we’re reviewing the most read posts of the year I’m combining the two.  I’m also cheating a little.  The most read food-related post this year wasn’t written for our Friday Foodie Fun.  It was the post about finding a thumb tack in clam chowder.  This post, originally titled Recipes And Business, was actually written just before the Giants played in the Super Bowl in 2012 and was, in fact, the most-read foodie post this year.  Nice to know it has legs and it did way better than the Giants this year!  Enjoy.

Many of you will be cooking something for Sunday’s big game and so this Foodie Friday we’ll think a little bit about what recipes to follow.  Actually, it’s more about how one follows any recipe, and what that has in common with business.

An example recipe, printed from the Wikibooks ...

Image via Wikipedia

As I think you might know, my feeling about cooking is that it’s more like jazz while baking is more Baroque music– far more structured and precise.  Given that, the way I see recipes might differ from how you see them and how that perspective carries into business.  Let’s see.

A recipe is a guide, not an edict.  I look at them as outlines of the dish, but it’s up to me as the cook to insert the flavors I want to present.  For example, if I’m making chili for Sunday’s game, I know that most of the folks who will be at the party enjoy fairly hot food so I might change the spice mix accordingly.  Cooking veal cutlets for 20 can be expensive but turkey cutlets in the same recipe can be just as tasty.  With a vegan and a vegetarian as members of the household here, I often modify recipes to accommodate their eating styles too.  I have a sense of the destination and the recipe is the map, but there are often many routes to get to where I’m trying to go.

Business is the same.  There are some basic road maps – take in more than you spend, treat customers and employees well – but every business is different.  Sticking to the recipe isn’t always possible, and sometimes the road we wish to take is closed, but with a good understanding of fundamental techniques and enough knowledge of the building blocks (ingredients), one can cope with changing market conditions and take advantage of opportunities (I was going to make snapper but look at the fresh grouper on sale!) that might arise.

So as you’re whipping up that pot of gumbo, maybe try thickening it with okra instead of your usual file powder.  If you’re not having much luck using SEM for online commerce, maybe social media can be more efficient.  It’s jazz – learn to improvise – oh, and Go Big Blue!

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Wrapping It Up

There won’t be a blog post tomorrow – it’s a day for family and friends and not thoughts of business. I know it’s TunesDay but the music today is all my own.  It’s become my annual thing to repeat the most read posts of the year between the two holidays, which means this will be the last original post of the year.  Most read music post next Tuesday; most read Foodie Friday post…well, you can probably figure it out.

English: Gift ideas for men - wrapping paper e...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First and foremost, a healthy and Happy New Year to each and every one of you and to your families. Having had several health issues occur within my extended family over the last year or so I can tell you being healthy trumps anything business can give you.

As I’m writing this my two daughters are in the next room wrapping gifts for everyone.  I’ve been forbidden to leave the room I’m in lest the surprise of gift-giving be jeopardized.  They will be the first to admit that they inherited their father’s inability to wrap gifts.  My futile attempts look as if the package had been wrapped and mailed through a series of post offices across each continent, each of which adds a nick and a tear to the wrap job.   Needless to say, the quality of my gifts needs to be spectacular since the packaging is terrible.  Which of course is the business point.

A walk through most markets show you that most companies spend a lot of time thinking about packaging and nearly all of them fail.  Very few go beyond the conventional.  Have a look at these examples and your mind will be opened up as to what we can do – whether it’s a package or the product itself – when we don’t use where we are as a jumping off point.  Starting from scratch is hard – there are few things more terrifying as a blank whiteboard (or an empty space in which one needs to write a blog post).  Those blank spaces – filled only with promise – are where we need to force ourselves to begin.

The year starts next week and with it everything is new again.  I hope you use it to rethink everything.  Even if you come out if the same place, you’re better off for having done the exercise and placing it all in a nicely wrapped package.  Happy Holidays!

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