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

Dinner with Julia

What do Ina Garten and Martha Stewart have in common? Both women describe cooking through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking when they were young as foundation to learning to cook.
Julia Child is an inspiration to most home cooks of a certain age. I found her so inspiring that at one time, I had all of her cookbooks, including a first edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and had read almost every biography written about her, My Life in France, being my favorite. And yet! I confess that until this week, my cooking adventures in Mastering were limited to her omelet recipe, her iconic recipes for onion soup and Beef Bourguignon.
When the Food52 Cookbook Club on Facebook chose Mastering as its cookbook for the month, I jumped at the chance to finally use Julia’s first cookbook for its intended purpose.
I decided to start with something easy, a poached egg. I purchased the best organic eggs I could afford, read the recipe several times, and began. After I’d tur…

Collard Greens with White Beans - A Vegetarian Take on a Classic

Could a vegetarian version of collard greens ever compete with the traditional goodness of collard greens cooked with a smoked ham hock?

I was skeptical until I made this recipe. It is every bit as delicious. Taking the place of the ham hock is the rind of parmesan or other hard cheese. I keep a small plastic bag of cheese rinds in the freezer, they are the perfect flavor enhancer of stocks and soups, and now collard greens.

Similar recipes call for dried beans, but sine I live 10,400 feet above sea level, dried beans are always a challenge unless I'm using a pressure cooker. For this recipe, I opted for canned beans and am just as happy as can be.

This recipe is quick, easy, delicious, and so rich and satisfying a bowlful with a slice of garlicky olive oil toasted bread makes the perfect week night dinner. It is also a satisfying side dish.

Let's get cooking!

1 bunch of collard greens, touch center stems removes, leaves torn into large pieces
1 14 oz can of Nort…

Open to the Spirit - Book Review

Open to the Sprit is like reading a letter from a friend. McKnight writes a very accessible introduction to the Holy Spirit and its role in our spiritual life. McKnight uses several stories from his life and others to share how the Holy Spirit consoles and deepens our daily spiritual walk. A terrific book for those seeking an introduction to a relationship with the Holy Spirit.