Tag Archives: food

A New American Tradition

Next week we will celebrate Thanksgiving, an annual food fest for family and friends.  The cuisine reflects our diverse culture. Most of us will eat New World foods like turkey, squash and cranberries.  But the choices will vary from kosher to halal; from tacos and burritos to pickled red beets and pumpkin pie; from sweet and sour pork to chutneys and curries.

Thanksgiving is the most “American” holiday we celebrate. According to the accepted historical version, the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 when the Pilgrims sat down to a feast with Squanto and the Wampanoag Indian tribe. The meal was a celebration for the Pilgrims of surviving a hard year and recognition that they couldn’t have done it without the help of the Wampanoag.

Of course, that version is completely bogus because we know from historical records that the Pilgrims pushed the Wampanoag and neighboring tribes off the land through what today we call ethnic cleansing.  The tribes of New England, like all other tribes within the territorial borders of the U.S., were systemically decimated by wars and diseases. Indians didn’t become U.S. citizens until federal law changed in 1924.

So why bother celebrating Thanksgiving? 

Every country is held together by its common traditions.  Common traditions give us a point of reference to help us find our place in the world. In a huge, diverse country like America, common traditions had to be created from scratch.  Traditions created from scratch reflected what those with power at the time wanted to showcase; not how it really was. 

George Washington issued the first presidential proclamation calling for a celebration of thanksgiving.  No one asked if his slaves were invited.  Abraham Lincoln called for a day of Thanksgiving in 1863, when the Civil War wasn’t going well for the Union.

Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1942, less than a year after the Pearl Harbor attack.  No one mentioned that Japanese Americans had been unconstitutionally stripped of their property and rights as citizens and then required to prove their loyalty by sending their sons to fight in the war.  (For a real American hero, google “Senator Daniel Inouye”.)

But over time, countries evolve as circumstances change. What was once socially or politically acceptable is no longer so.  Now, the diversity of America’s people calls for a more nuanced view of our history and traditions.  The unpleasant truths behind the origins of Thanksgiving, and so much more in American history, can be acknowledged without damaging our country.

It’s time to create a new common tradition that is a more honest reflection of who we are and what we aspire to become. Our food choices already acknowledge our diversity.  Now, celebrate Thanksgiving by acknowledging the good and bad historical experiences of our diverse population.  An America without our diversity would be uninspiring and the food boring.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies and risk mitigation programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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My Whole30 Journey

person holding green vegetables

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Okay, I’m going to really open up here, so get ready. This past month my family and I have been participating in the Whole30 dietary reset plan. I don’t usually do diets because after a childhood filled with dieting, I don’t really believe in them, but I did some research and this program seems different. The idea is for 30 days to eliminate the most common food groups known to cause inflammation, digestive issues, headaches, allergies, etc. What remains is a core diet of protein, healthy fats (yay avocadoes!), vegetables and fruit. It is very restrictive, but is not intended to be a long term, sustainable way of eating. After the 30 days, the eliminated foods are reintroduced, slowly, to determine what, if any, reactions might occur. Knowing how your body reacts with certain foods helps you to make good decisions about what to eat and when. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, yes…and no.

I started this plan at the suggestion of my strength trainer. I’ve always suspected I have some food sensitivities and during the recent quarantine, my habits have become, shall we say, sloppy? When I mentioned it to my husband, he decided to try the plan, too, and so did my son and daughter. I’m not sure how they have all processed the program, or what they’ve learned, but for me it’s been fairly eye opening. Once I recovered from the detox of sugar, alcohol, grains, glutens, etc., I was able to reflect on other issues. How do I feel before and after I eat? How do I feel during meals? Lots of thoughts bubbled to the surface and some painful memories.

As a child I was fairly average size; definitely not a skinny kid, could be described at times as a tad chubby. One year at my annual checkup, the pediatrician gave my mother a 1200-1400 calorie a day diet for me to follow to lose weight. I must have been somewhere between eight and ten, maybe could have lost a few pounds, but overall not terribly heavy. But I followed the diet. Deprived of sweets, small portions, limited bread. I don’t remember the results, but I’m sure it worked to a point. Then there was the Weight Watcher experience, which I did with my mom who was also overweight. And sometime later, as I got closer to puberty, the doctor prescribed diet pills. Diet pills!!!! For a pre-teen girl!!!!! By the time I was 13, I’d slimmed down, like most of the other girls. But those diet and body image messages have stayed with me all these years. I had an ulcer when I was 14 and spent two weeks in a hospital for tests when I was 16 because I was experiencing chronic stomach aches. The result: “spastic colon,” which is basically saying I was a typical, anxious, teen who felt everything in the gut.

I am fully aware that my parents and my pediatrician made what they believed were decisions in my best interest. And I am also aware that I’m not alone in this experience. My younger sister, who was not placed on a diet, most likely observed my experience and has struggled with body image and eating issues. She recently confessed to me that she is terrified of being fat. Most of my women friends of a “certain age,” if they’re being honest, likely have a similar story to tell. The media during the 60s and 70s was filled with images of skinny, Twiggy-like models. Actresses were required to be skinny. The whole notion of the female form was objectified, sexualized, demeaned. The idea was to become as small as possible, for what???? To disappear? To not realize our full potential as people, regardless of our looks? To appease the insecurities of the male dominated culture? Okay, okay, I need to calm down.

I have had anxiety about food and my body my whole life. I am about to turn 62-years-old this week and I still feel burdened by a childhood that, while happy and privileged, left me loathing my own body. I have been pregnant and given birth to three babies, breastfed them for a total of three years of my life. I have danced on stage, run 5k races, hiked, swam, lifted weights, practiced Pilates, carried my children in my arms, carried groceries into my house and helped carry my mother when she was ill. I am a freakin’ miracle! And yet, when I sit down to eat a meal, I get a stomachache. At a restaurant I am paralyzed by indecision. Do I order what looks good, or what is healthiest? What actually is the healthiest? How will I feel after I eat? Even at home where I do most of the cooking, I am insecure about what I, myself, should be eating. I spend a lot of time thinking about these things. I am envious that my husband can go merrily through life eating whatever he wants and if he puts on a few pounds, oh well, he’ll just take them off again. For him, eating is just another thing he has to do. And while his body has aged and changed through the years, eh, who cares? He has most of his hair, he wears the same size pants and looks pretty great! Why can’t I feel like that????

So, where do I go from here? I’m not sure. Over the last few weeks I have experienced what it is like to eat without pain. I have learned how to determine if I am really hungry for a snack, and if so, what is something that will fuel my body. I have worked hard to analyze how food makes me feel. I still have a lot of work to do. I’m scared to reintroduce the foods I’ve eliminated because I don’t want to once again experience pain when I eat. But, that’s the next step in this experiment. I don’t want to continue to be afraid of food. Afraid to get fat. Afraid of pain. I don’t want to feel shame because I didn’t make a, “good,” choice. I want to truly enjoy food and eating for what it is: nourishment for this miracle of a body. I want to go through my day without worrying about meals and how I will feel. I want to continue to prepare healthy, enjoyable meals for myself and my family. I want to be grateful for the body I live in and the good health I enjoy. I want this next ride around the sun to bring me freedom from the fear of food, peace with my body and most of all, continuing good health.

Let’s touch base next year and see how it goes. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, wear a mask and wash your hands!


About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Why is This Year Different?

traditional jewish matzo

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

This Wednesday evening marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.  It is a well-known fact that it is also the most celebrated of all the holidays.  The observance lasts eight days during which we focus on the theme of our people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt, crossing the Red Sea in a hurry with little time to prepare.  The first night consists of a festive meal, or Seder, when we retell the story through questions and answers, singing, eating and drinking four cups of wine.  The point of this exercise is to both remind us that freedom is precious, and to teach the younger generations about our story.

One of the highlights of every Seder is the asking of The Four Questions.  These questions are designed to provoke discussion and thought around the significance of the holiday.  Usually asked by the youngest person at the table, the refrain is always, “Why is this night different from all other nights.”  The answers to the four questions are the heart of the rest of the Seder.  But the overarching theme is always: freedom.


Over the last couple of weeks, I admit I’ve engaged in bouts of self-pity.  I have felt afraid for myself and my family.  I have been depressed about the changes in my life.  I have been angry, too, that those in leadership who could have mitigated some of the damage, did nothing.  And I have felt sad and helpless.  These negative thoughts and feelings are foreign to me.  I am usually an optimistic person who can find fun and joy in most places.  But our current state of affairs has been really tough for me to accept.

A therapist would probably say I’m moving through the stages of grief, and that’s likely the case.  I know from grief.  My people know from grief.  Generation after generation of Jewish people have been chased around the globe, experiencing plagues, famine, Holocaust and antisemitism.  And we are not alone in this.  Other cultures and peoples have faced similar obstacles and discrimination.  I can’t speak for the others, but I can speak for myself and my people.  The one thing we do to defend ourselves against the darkness is to survive.  We survive by carrying on our traditions.  We survive by being joyful.  We survive by telling the stories.  We survive by holding tight to each other, even if it is only in memory.

Most years we host a large group of friends and family to join our Seder.  I spend weeks planning and preparing the ritual foods and the traditional festive delicacies.  This year, obviously, the usual crowd will not be joining us live in our home.  It was with a heavy heart that a couple of weeks ago I emailed everyone to cancel.  And it was at that point that I really felt the enormity of what we are dealing with today.  I was also able to relate to the story of my ancestors and the challenges they faced.  Personally, my world has become pretty small and my life has slowed to a pace way out of my comfort zone.  But we will have our Seder.  We will include my son in California via Zoom.  I will make my chicken soup the way my mother taught me.  My husband, who will now be home, will make the brisket.  We will drink four cups of wine (really, the best part).  And, we will retell the story of our exodus and our journey to freedom.

The final prayer of the Seder meal is one in which we express our hope that next year we will celebrate in Jerusalem.  For me, the meaning is not to literally be in Jerusalem, although that would be amazing.  I think of Jerusalem as my spiritual home, the place where I can feel free to express my faith and tradition.  But my actual home, here in Nashville, is also a place where I can feel free to be myself and to enjoy life with my family and friends.  So, this year when we say the prayer, I will be thinking ahead to next Passover, when I can once again open my home and share the story of our survival and freedom with 30 of our nearest and dearest.  In the meantime, stay healthy, stay home and wash your hands.  xo


About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Filed under family, History, Self Savvy, Uncategorized

Reflections on the Family Dinner


This last few weeks has been hard for me for many reasons. My business has shifted gears, in a positive way, but has resulted in long hours and many decisions.  My husband has been working on a big project at work, so we haven’t had as much time together as usual, leaving us both irritable and feeling disconnected.  The Jewish holidays have come and gone and, while spiritually uplifting, the attendant socializing and entertaining have me feeling somewhat depleted physically.  And then there’s the big elephant in the room, the circus freak-show going on in Washington, which makes me sad, depressed, angry and frightened.  I am not really a negative person, in fact most people would say I’m unnaturally optimistic, but this month has been a struggle, even for me.

But, dear reader, do not despair. I was hit with inspiration the other day during a random, casual conversation with some of my colleagues.  I had brought my lunch to a meeting and the discussion turned to cooking in general, cooking for families in particular.  I was the only person with children of my own, the others being considerably younger than myself, but each of us had something to say about our experiences with family meals.  I mentioned that, while my children were growing up, I made family dinners an every-night thing. As the children got older, had more activities and eventually were able to drive themselves around, attendance was not always one hundred percent.  But, at the proscribed time, dinner was on the table for whomever was home.

One of my colleagues mentioned that her mom didn’t know how to cook, so they ate out every dinner, or brought in food from somewhere else.  This led us to discuss what, exactly, constitutes a “family dinner.”  Did it have to be homemade?  Did it have to be at home?  Did it have to be dinner?  I was struck by the guilt the other felt that they didn’t engage in this daily ritual with their families.  They judged their parents for not making it a priority.  I, in turn, began to feel self-conscious.  I am not one to hold everyone to some random standard that fits me and in fact, I try to look deeper in these types of discussions.  Did each of their families make some sort of regular interaction happen?  Could they look differently at their family’s process and see what they did to maintain connection?  For my family, dinner was the available time, but for other families it may have been something else.

The discussion revealed to me the complex and intense relationship between families and food.  Not a groundbreaking thing, for sure.  But scratch the surface and you’ll find that even in today’s modern world where things move at lightning speed and dinner can be obtained with the click of a mouse, by opening an app or by a meal delivery program, there remains a longing for people in the same household to spend time together.  For most of us food is comfort and the comfort of eating with those we love, in our familiar surroundings, makes us feel safer and less alone in the world.

In these turbulent times, we all long for a way to make sense of things.  At the end of the day I still feel comforted by going to the fridge, taking out the fixings for a home cooked meal and beginning the preparations while my husband pours a glass of wine and we share our day.  When my children come home for visits, they ask for their favorite meals and we cook together, catching up and remembering what always brings us back together.

If you have a memory or story to share about your “family dinner,” please share.  I’m working on a collection of stories on this subject and would love to connect with you.  Leave a comment here, or email me at barbaradabpr@gmail.com  Bon apetit!

Bonus points if you can identify the family in the featured photo!

P.S.  Here’s one last picture from my Summer Garden.  Sweet Potatoes!  Just dug from the ground, ready to dry and store for Sweet Potato pie for Thanksgiving!



About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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The Nashville Foodie Nation: Business Edition

Pasta and Garlic Bread

With so many outstanding restaurants in Nashville, sometimes we are stumped by the question “Where should we go?”

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, I want quality of taste and interest along with ambiance. And, when it’s a business meal, add to that the need to tailor the experience. The venue I choose will set the stage, whether it’s for a quiet, in-depth conversation, a meet-and-greet with the gang, an out-of-the-way deal-making venture or a quick connect to download information.

No matter your professional need, Nashville’s foodie nation has a wealth of options. So many that I’ve pulled together my short list of go-to’s. There’s always the standard Jimmy Kelly’s for dinner, J. Alexander’s for lunch, Starbuck’s for coffee. But here are a few others you should try on for size.

For an unhurried lunch out of the downtown fray, it’s The Mad Platter in Germantown. My long legs ache for better chairs, but the pasta dish is a long-time favorite and their soups satisfy.

Husk is a must to show off your foodie-ness. Avoid lunching on warm days, though; the sun through the windows is toasty and will distract you from the burger and fries. The burger doesn’t just have bacon on top; the salty goodness is ground into the meat. Inspired.

Etch is my all-time personal favorite for an important lunch or dinner. If you want to impress with innovation, Deb Paquette’s layers of flavor and innovative ingredients never disappoint. Lunch service lately has been unusually slow; yet even that won’t dissuade my visits. Always start with the roasted cauliflower to share. Your guests will thank you. Take time to savor your experience and you’ll be back often.

If you want to see and be seen, I recommend Bricktop’s on West End every time. Full and boisterous, this won’t be where you have an intimate conversation. This is the place to people-watch, surreptitiously of course. The gazpacho is my favorite thing about the return of warm-weather menus.

Head to The Palm for quiet talk. Its impeccable service lets you focus on building that business relationship. It’s great for folks visiting as well, and you’re in the heart of the downtown scene if you want to go somewhere else for drinks and music.

Midtown Café is not someplace I go regularly, but colleagues swear it’s a business-lunch experience that consistently achieves the right balance. It’s always full, so they must be right.

Noshville Midtown is the place for breakfast, especially if there’s a government bigwig you want to run into. During legislative session, the booths are packed with elected officials filling up on bagels, pancakes and the best oatmeal around.

For coffee, I’d bypass the chains for CREMA on Hermitage. It’s a bit rustic in décor, but the drinks and friendly staff and patrons make it a comfortable spot for a quick connect or leisurely conversation to catch up.

Finally, for LA-trendy, hop over to Pinewood Social in the Trolley Barns. It offers at least four different experiences: couches for web-surfing, coffee-drinking casual, a bar where single diners congregate and network, booths for those wanting to eat and meet, and even a fully served bowling alley. You have to experience it to believe that, yes, bowling can serve as a great business-meal setting.

What are your favorites? HerSavvy would love to know!

Get out and discover Nashville, people. There’s a lot out there to enjoy!

About Laura Reinbold, PE

Ms. Reinbold explores ways http://www.ttlusa.com can help build our communities, from the geoprofessional side of the engineering profession.

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