Skip to main content

A Box of Pasta Gratitude

The Joy of a Two-Dollar Dinner: Why Gratitude Actually Works
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

Counting my blessings in the midst of adversity is like whistling in the dark, my voice betrays me.
Even if I’ve summoned the energy to count things, the act doesn’t feel authentic. ‘Who am I kidding? Thankful that I had toast for breakfast when my fridge is empty?’
Some days it feels that grudgingly contrived.
Other days my heart is filled with joy as I write, ‘I had toast for breakfast and it was delicious!’ That exclamation point not adequately conveying my enjoyment of the toast or the pleasure I felt sitting across from a new friend and realizing that I’d discovered a kindred spirit.
You might argue that toast was the only thing that these two examples had in common: That ‘gratitude’ is a matter of context, the answer to hunger versus the the joy of social communion.
I’m going to argue that both are examples of how real gratitude can change our perspective, and help us to change our lives for the better.
My first acquaintance with the idea of keeping a gratitude list came from Oprah, who assured me that good things would happen if I would keep track of my blessings. Her assertions are backed up by academic research conducted over the past two decades. The results suggest that gratitude provides us with positive feelings about ourselves and an altruism towards others.
It was my mother, of course, who opened my eyes during a recent phone conversation when I was complaining about my lack of progress.
Mom cut me short, “Suzie, 2016 is going to be your best year yet. Look at all the good things that have already happened.” She listed a variety of wonderful things that had occurred in the last four months, writing this column being very high on the list.
Her observation changed the way I viewed counting my blessings. Instead of simply writing down a list of things, I considered the goodness in my life, mind-fully.
In other words, I expanded my view and focused on the good that is already a reality. Recalling God’s constant provision in what we have received or overcome, strengthens our faith in God’s promise to ‘use everything for our good’.
An example of this cause and effect is beautifully expressed in many parts of the Psalms. We find within one psalm, an anguished cry for help, even doubt, and then a few verses later, a confident statement of God’s deliverance. From Psalm 28:
1 To you, Lord, I call;
    you are my Rock,
    do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
    I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
    as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
    toward your Most Holy Place.
But look at the change later in the same psalm….
6 Praise be to the Lord,
    for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him.
Since this is within the same psalm, we might surmise that nothing in the circumstances have changed, only the psalmist’s confident faith in God. This reminder that we can share our fears and our hopes with God and remain sure of His deliverance, is one of the reasons I read the Psalms every day. They inspire me.
If all of this sounds a little ‘woo-woo’, here’s a pragmatic view of gratitude: When we keep a positive attitude, we are more likely to find productive solutions.
For example…
A Joyful Two Dollar Dinner
This simple pasta is so delicious that I included it in my birthday dinner. The joy of this dish is that even on its own it is rich and satisfying and will fill your belly and bring a smile of gratitude to your lips. Yes, it’s that good.

1 lb of pasta $1
1 stick of butter $0.50
1 head of garlic or 1 bunch of parsley $0.50
Total Cost: $2.00
Feeds 2 – 4 people depending on how hungry you are
1.     Bring a large pot of salted water to boil (by salted, I mean imagine the ocean)
2.     When the water has reached a rolling boil, add the pound of pasta and give it a nice stir to separate the individual pasta.
3.     While the pasta boils, in a separate large sauté pan or skillet, gently melt the stick of butter. Add 3-4 cloves of minced garlic and saute, being careful not to let the garlic burn.
4.     When the pasta is al dente or ‘toothy’, drain it and then add it to the melted butter and garlic. Gently toss the pasta with the butter, until the noodles are coated. Salt and pepper to taste. Note: if you were to add ½ to 1 cup of grated parmesan to butter sauce you would have Fettuccine Alfredo.
If the wolf is at the door, this modest dish of buttered pasta is elegant and very satisfying and a lovely dinner to share with your favorite friend. There’s no shame in this game. Enjoy!
…“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson writes weekly food and religion columns for the Summit Daily News and is the author of ten books. You can find her at


Popular posts from this blog

Women are Highly Esteemed in the Eyes of This Man

I enter the sanctuary of Our Lady of Peace Church and my eyes adjust to the dimmed lights as the only illumination comes from candles on the altar and their glowing reflection in the monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament.
My friend and I had come to join the Mary and Martha’s quarterly meeting which started with an hour of Adoration.
I took my seat in one of the pews, knelt, and surreptitiously glanced around the sanctuary. In the gloaming, I could see thirty other women kneeling like sentinels in silent prayer. 
Over the course of the hour, we would remain in contemplative silence.
As I slipped in and out of my prayers and wandering thoughts, I considered how pleased God must be when he sees us gathered in the simple and divine act of Adoration.
But in fact, women are highly esteemed in God’s sight not matter where we are. 
We only look at the life of Jesus Christ to understand how dearly he cherishes every woman.
In the Gospel of Saint John, a group of men bring a woman caught i…

When our spirit hungers

The precocious toddler’s interest in talking to her mother grew in insistence as the gathered group settled in for an hour of silent prayer. Shushing didn’t work, so the mother led her child into an adjoining room where she would still be part of the sanctuary, but sound would be dampened. Despite the closed door and heavy glass walls, the child’s fervent desire to speak with her mother was still audible.
I said a prayer for the patient mother determined to stay, and for the child who was either tired or hungry or impatient for Mom’s undivided attention. And then tried to bring my wandering thoughts back to prayer. I had come to Adoration with my own pressing need for answers.
Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a growing emptiness in my heart. A void, as if something is missing. It’s not psychological. Not physical. After doing an internal check, I determined it’s a spiritual void that I’m experiencing.
No, I’m not doubting God, his existence or goodness. I have full confidence in…

If you are tired of the guilt trip you usually feel at church, here’s a different perspective

I am counting the days until I fly to Fort Lauderdale to see Mom for Christmas. Yes, I speak with her every day, sometimes twice a day. But as you know, phone calls just aren’t the same as being with someone you love. I look forward to seeing Mom’s smile, to holding her hand, to going for a drive along the beach with her. Spending time in the presence of someone we love enriches our relationship with them.
I believe the love I feel for Mom, is a sliver of what God feels for each of us. I believe God longs to share that love with us. Which is why we are called to spend time in God’s presence daily. We experience God’s presence when we meet him in our prayers, in church, and hopefully in one another. If I could make one wish for each of us, it would be that at some point during the next four weeks of Advent we would experience how much Jesus loves us.

The Best Christmas

During my morning devotions, I read these two verses of Psalm 117:
Praise theLord,all you nations;
extol him, all you peop…