Bob on Books Gives Thanks

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

I am blessed that I will be at a table like this today. Not everyone has that opportunity and I so appreciate those who extend food and hospitality to those otherwise not able to celebrate.

I also consider myself deeply blessed to be able to read, review, and write about books. I don’t make money from that other than the exchange of getting books for free in exchange for writing reviews. I’ve always loved reading and sharing what I’ve learned, from the time I was a kid, and to do this is a gift for which I’m thankful.

I’m thankful to you, the reader. It is wonderful not to talk to oneself, to know others are reading, and interested, like me in finding that next great book to read. Reading is social and not just solitary–when you discover a good book, you can’t help but talk about it. I’ve been blogging over nine years now, and our interactions, even when you correct my grammar or infelicities, has made it so rewarding.

I’m always so thankful for the writers who pour their energy into getting words on the page. When I read about the writing life, I find most writers only write a few hours a day. It’s not because it is an easy life, but rather it is some of the most demanding work to put a story or a narrative into words. Thank you Celeste Ng, James Baldwin, John Steinbeck, Ngaio Marsh, Louise Penny, and so many others who have enriched my life through your hard work.

Speaking of Louise Penny, her latest book drops in the next week. That’s cause for Thanksgiving!

I’m thankful for publishing houses–for the work of acquiring manuscripts, negotiating contracts, editing draft after draft, and going from draft to publication. I’m especially grateful for some of the small publishers and university presses who provide a platform for great writing and scholarship outside the mainstream.

I’m grateful for the people who have embraced the calling of bookseller. The indie booksellers have my admiration, and whenever I can do it, my trade. As that big online bookseller scales back their book buying, indie booksellers have been filling the gap. The whole bookselling ecosystem gets my thanks though–from my local Barnes and Noble to the second hand sellers from Half Price Books to indie booksellers selling everything from recent backlist books to antiquarian books–in some cases, those treasures one finds when cleaning out grandma’s house.

I’m grateful for librarians who serve the public and, in educational settings, students and researchers. They do so much more than curate and check in books, sometimes even saving people from drug overdoses.

I’m grateful for teachers who cultivated my love of reading. I have several friends teaching young readers. I’m so grateful for you!

I’m always grateful for those book publicists who handle my review requests along with so many others, and often are key promoters of books. I’ve had the privilege of working with several who do this work with excellence, making my life as a reviewer so much easier.

I’m grateful for all the people who deliver books to my mailbox or doorstep. We like to complain about these people, but I’m grateful for all they do and can think of only rare instances when I’ve had delivery issues.

I’m grateful for the First Amendment that protects authors, publishers, and even reviewers like me. Our speech, press, and religious freedoms are remarkable when you consider global history. It is also something I don’t take for granted. It is always tempting to shut down ideas we don’t like. It can happen here.

Finally, I’m so grateful for books, this wonderful cultural invention. And I am profoundly grateful for the “village” that makes possible that stack by my bedside. Aren’t we all?

Happy Thanksgiving, my bookish friends!

My Thoughts on Receiving the Vaccine

This picture was taken moments after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on March 9. We were sitting in the parking lot outside the Celeste Center at the Ohio state fairgrounds for our fifteen minute wait after receiving our shots from the efficient volunteers working with the Columbus Health Department. As I reflect on all this, I find myself filled with a profound sense of gratitude to God in so many ways:

  • For those volunteers–EMTs, nurses, and other health professionals serving on their day off.
  • For our local public health officials, who organized this vaccine site and have provided invaluable health advice throughout the pandemic.
  • For genetic sequencing technology that made it possible for scientists around the world to have the complete genome of the COVID virus, the operating instructions that make the virus work.
  • For the researchers who invested years in their academic training and long hours in vaccine research.
  • For new vaccine technologies, including the mRNA technology that helped reduce the time to initially make the vaccine and is tailored to activate my body’s immune response to the spike proteins on the virus that enable the virus to infect us. From what I hear, it is also easily tweaked, as the virus mutates.
  • For the regulatory agencies like the FDA that ensured that the vaccine is safe and effective through the standard process of testing the vaccine.
  • It is amazing that it is over 90 percent effective. Flu vaccines are typically 40-60 percent effective. The hopes with COVID was a vaccine that was 50 percent effective.
  • For both the Trump and Biden administrations who facilitated the development, production, and distribution of the vaccines (although companies did not receive payments from the government until vaccines were delivered). Despite the highly partisan nature of our politics at present, both parties and administration contributed to this amazing effort.
  • For our state’s governor who has wrestled with the hard decisions balancing lives and livelihoods throughout the pandemic, and opening vaccination to all adults a month ahead of the president’s target. We can argue ways it might have been done better or differently, but I’m thankful for not having to make those decisions and our governor’s willingness to make hard and sometimes unpopular decisions. That is good servant leadership.
  • I’m grateful that we are already seeing lower case numbers, lower hospitalizations, and lower death numbers, especially among our elderly population (and I hope we all team up to keep it that way).
  • I’m grateful for the possibility in the next week of being able to share a meal in person with vaccinated friends in safety.
  • I’m grateful that because of the vaccine that even if I should be infected, it is far less likely that I can infect others. Throughout this, my concern is less that I’ll be infected than that I could infect and be the source of serious illness in someone I love.
  • Perhaps above all, I find myself in wonder afresh that the vaccine and the research that produced it is an expression of what it means to be created in the image of God and given dominion under God for his creation. It means the capacity to create vaccines that subdue viruses. I see vaccines like the one in my arm as yet another way in which we were made to glorify God and love our neighbors.

Finally, as I mentioned, I’m glad for a chance to do something tangible to love my neighbor. I see vaccines (like masks) as not so much about protecting me as protecting others. Because of the requirements of social distancing and our age, we’ve not been able to do things with people. We’ve found other ways to care, but it is nice to do something physical and not virtual that makes a difference.

Side effects? They’ve been minimal for both of us. I had a sore arm for a day or so after–like most vaccines, and was a bit tired the night of the second shot. My wife had a bit more–tiredness for a couple days and a rash near the injection site that disappeared within three days–all within the range of normal.

As I’ve noted previously, I’m not into vaccine arguments. I studied the information and made my personal decision a long time ago. Now I’ve acted on that decision. I’m won’t argue with you about yours. But I will give thanks that I could make the decision I did.

Thanksgiving in a Pandemic

Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay

“Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).

There is one imperative that hasn’t been hard to follow during the COVID pandemic. I’m constantly hearing of people to pray for who have tested positive, are sick, and maybe very sick. Equally, I hear of many who are struggling with isolation and depression from months of physical distancing from others, and the sheer length of this virus.

Rejoicing and thanksgiving? That is harder, and were it not for some prayer practices that my work team follow in the collegiate ministry with which I work, I probably would not do much of this. Thank you, Carrie and Kathy, for this. But it is hard. Monday night I learned of a long-time acquaintance who worked in Student Life at Ohio State who passed from COVID. His smile will no longer light up any room he is in, nor will students know the care of this big bear of a man. As I write, Ohio topped 10,000 new cases in a day and set a single day record for COVID deaths.

How can one give thanks amid all this? I certainly cannot give thanks for it. That would be cruel and heartless and perverse.

Paul’s urging is to give thanks in all circumstances, not for them. He writes to a church that has faced intense persecution in an empire where Christians were not a legal, recognized religion. And life for many in these times was often nasty, brutish, and short.

Paul’s urging to give thanks is situated in the middle of passages that speak of Christian faith and hope, between the faith that assures one of God’s saving work in this life and the one to come, and the certain hope of that coming.

This leads me first to be thankful both for the life in which I enjoy God’s love and approval and that I’ve nothing to fear in death. Because I treasure the life in which I can live out that faith, I heed the measures that offer protection from getting sick. I don’t practice these out of fear but thankfulness for public health officials who offer this advice. If, despite this, I get sick, I am at peace.

I give thanks each morning when I awaken healthy, and at the end of the day.

I give thanks for all the public officials and health care workers who care for those who are sick, sometimes despite public resistance, and often putting their health on the line.

I give thanks for first responders, grocery and other frontline workers who are at greater risk, who serve us, many at relatively low wages.

I give thanks for my wife, and that I do not live alone during this time. Her daily companionship and the ways we help each other when we get too obsessed with the news, helps us both to keep a sense of proportion

I give thanks for the small blessings of daily life, meals prepared and shared with each other, working together on home projects, de-cluttering, and maintenance. Not going out so much gave us the time to work together on those tasks we avoided–like the first cleanout of our garage in ten years or more.

I give thanks for my son and his wife. I admire their good sense throughout the pandemic without any expressions of parental concern. We won’t be together for Thanksgiving or Christmas (apart from a drive-by outdoor gift exchange). We’re grateful for outdoor, physically distanced visits from time to time and that they have also remained healthy.

I give thanks for our church. We have not met in person since early March but I feel, if anything, closer as I pay attention to the prayer lists and stay in touch with a number of individuals. And it might be that I pay even closer attention to our pastor’s sermons when he is staring me in the face on Zoom!

I give thanks for the glorious sunsets I’ve seen on walks during these months. I’ve thought of some time posting a photo spread of the sunsets of the pandemic.

I give thanks for the glorious music I’ve listened to (and the chance to be a part of one virtual recording) even while I miss our local choral group. We all have recognized more clearly than ever the treasure of singing together.

I give thanks for the opportunities to join our plein air group in safe, outdoor painting outings this summer and online gatherings with artist friends.

I give thanks for books (of course!). I’ve kept company with writers like Hilary Mantel and Marilynne Robinson. I’m thankful for publishers who usually say “yes” to review requests. As always, I’m thankful for the incomparable Byron and Beth Borger at Hearts and Minds Books. I’m so thankful for all my book-loving friends who help turn reading into a community conversation.

I give thanks for meaningful work encouraging emerging scholars as they connect faith and their academic calling. I get to write, edit, and interview people far more intelligent and gifted than I. This old dog keeps learning about various social media platforms, web analytics, marketing. Everyday brings conversations with a variety of partners inside and outside our organization. Fortunately, I am able to do all of this at home.

The pandemic has taught me in new ways to focus on all the things we have and may do, even in a time of loss. Perhaps confronting so much that I cannot control has challenged me to greater prayerfulness throughout the day.

By God’s grace, next year’s list may include so much we’ve had to leave aside. There is so much I look forward to be “over with.” But I don’t want to forget either those we’ve lost or the particular goodness of God in these times. Most of all. I am thankful and rejoice in the unchanging and certain hope our faith affords us. As we sit down to dinner today the abundance on our table will reflect the abundance in our hearts and lives.

A Bibliophile’s Top Ten For Thanksgiving

happy-thanksgiving-3767426_1280Thanksgiving is the traditional occasion for recalling the many good gifts of life for which we are thankful. With that holiday approaching, it occurred to me that bibliophiles have particular reason to be thankful. Here are ten:

  1. The gift of words. In well-crafted sentences and paragraphs, filling the imagination with ideas and stories films only poorly capture.
  2. The feel of a well-made book in one’s hand.
  3. The smell of books: fresh paper and ink, or the faint mustiness of an older book.
  4. The discovery of a good series and the thought that there may be two, five, ten or more to follow, where characters become friends (or hated enemies).
  5. That moment when light and seating, beverage and book merge into a seamless flow of pleasure as we lose ourselves in a story.
  6. The insight that the world, both real and imagined, is larger, more complicated and interesting that we’d previously thought.
  7. The re-reading of once, or twice, or thrice-loved books that are never the same book because we are never the same reader.
  8. The finding of a book on the shelves of a bookstore, or a book sale, that one has always wanted to acquire, as if both you and the book were just waiting this moment.
  9. The thought that there are professionals, booksellers and librarians, who share our love of books, and work to connect book and reader; where their employment and our enjoyment allow us both to flourish.
  10. Finally, there are those, usually teachers and parents, who ushered us into the love of story, the printed page, and the wonder of books. Perhaps for these we reserve our greatest thanks, for without them, the rest is not possible.

I could go on and I’m sure you can think of reasons to be thankful connected with books. Why don’t you add them in the comments below, and perhaps share this exercise with your book-loving friends and loved ones this Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Delivering Holiday Newspapers


Newspapers B & W (4), by Jon S. [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

The other day I spotted a bag of advertising circulars for Black Friday laying on the apron of my driveway. It brought back memories of delivering The Vindicator on Thanksgiving morning, as well as all the Sunday papers leading up to Christmas. Generally the Thanksgiving Vindicator was the biggest paper of the year with all the sales ads for Friday (it wasn’t called Black Friday back then). There were maybe twenty or thirty pages of news content, and the rest was advertising, either in the newspaper of the advertising inserts–in all there were often several hundred pages.

Stories that I found online said that these papers could weigh between three and five pounds apiece. I had seventy customers on my paper route, and so that adds up to 210 to 350 pounds of newspapers that I had to deliver. The newspapers were delivered in one bundle, the ads in another. For seventy papers, this often turned out to be four to six bundles for my route.

I picked up my papers at a drop on Steel Street and haul them four blocks uphill on Oakwood Avenue to my route. Most days, I could put all my papers in one canvas paper sack, or two on Wednesdays and on Sundays I used a wagon.  For this haul, I used a wagon one year and it about killed me. I enlisted dad after that, and he would stuff the ads into the papers for one side of the street while I loaded up my paper sack and delivered the other, and then he would meet up with me to deliver the other side, or go up to the other block that I delivered.

Newspapers obviously made a good deal of extra money on all this advertising, but paper carriers didn’t get any more money. But in a way we did in the form of Christmas tips. For a route my size, I could get a hundred dollars in tips at Christmas time. Some were Scrooges, some were generous, and most remembered. It made hauling those papers worth it. One lady made homemade hard candy and would always give me a bag. If you were thinking of quitting your route, you usually waited until after Christmas, despite all those heavy papers.

In most communities, kids don’t deliver newspapers any more. When I delivered papers, most every person on my route, which covered two city blocks, took the paper. These days, you are lucky if about one out of five homes take the paper, and the routes are much larger, and usually delivered by adults in a car. But there are generations of paper carriers with memories of hauling hundreds of pounds of ad-laden Vindicators on Thanksgiving morning. Maybe some of you will share your stories…

A Book Bloggers Thanksgiving

happy-thanksgiving-3767426_1280Around many American tables today, people will share things for which they are thankful. Sometimes it seems a bit cheesy, but often it serves as a reminder that, while there is a good deal of bad news and sadness, there is an underlying goodness to life that is worth celebrating around a table with family and friends.

In that spirit, I’ve been reflecting on all the things as a book blogger (and chronicler of Youngstown life), for which I am thankful. Like so many other endeavors in life, blogging is not a solitary activity, nor is success a solitary achievement. So, as you and I gather around the screen (but not at your Thanksgiving table–put that phone down!), I want to share some of the people in this book blogger’s life for which I’m grateful:

  • Authors. I’ve read works that took years to research and write in some cases and went through numerous drafts and revisions. Then you engage with your readers, including the critical ones. I’ve had the chance to interact with some of them, many who are gracious with their time. I’m also struck what a perilous enterprise this is, wondering if anyone will be interested in what you write, particularly if you are just starting out.
  • Publishers. You take the financial risks to publish, especially in an era of tighter margins. It is incredible how many books get published every year and you make that magic happen.
  • Publicists. You are the people I interact with as I seek copies of the books I want to review. In nearly all cases, you have been friendly, quick to respond, and eager to help, and I have to admit to still being amazed that you send me your books. I hope at least a few people buy them from reading my reviews.
  • Bookstores. I’m amazed how hard some of my friends who are booksellers work to make ends meet and get good books into hands of the people who want them. Byron Borger at Hearts and Minds Books in Dallastown, Pennsylvania runs one of the most well-curated stores of thoughtful Christian and other fine literature in the country. I’ve never been to the store (on my bucket list) but they always have what I’m looking for, carefully packaged and quickly shipped. There are no indie bookstores near our home, but we’ve spent many happy hours at our local Barnes and Noble and Half Price Books.
  • Librarians. You curate these incredible spaces where I can get the books I cannot afford or find, along with all the research resources that I cannot find easily on my own.
  • Facebook group administrators. A good reason many people find their way to my blog is that you allow me to post on your pages. Hopefully I help start some good conversations on your pages as well and make them richer places to visit.
  • The Bob on Books Facebook page. This is a new venture this year with over 700 now following, about half personal friends, and about half people who I don’t know who love books. You remind me of all the interesting genres of literature and authors I don’t know very well, as well as what an interesting and quirky tribe all of us who love books can be.
  • All the others at Literary Hub, Publishers Weekly, The Atlantic, Shelf AwarenessBookriot, and other people who are writing about books. You clue me into so much of what is going on in the publishing and literary worlds, and provide great material to repost, ideas for books to review, and grist for blog posts, usually in reaction to something I’ve read.
  • WordPress.  You provide the software and the hosting that makes this page possible. I’ve found your online support great. I contact you, things get fixed, and the magic keeps happening!
  • You. Yes, you. I’m still amazed that people read my stuff, like and comment, share and re-blog. You help me reach a bigger audience than I could alone. Your comments make me think, and sometimes show me where I’m wrong. A special shoutout for all my Youngstown friends. I probably learn as much from you as I do in researching my posts.

There is a good deal of criticism of the online world these days. I’ve seen some of the reasons for that criticism from trolls to echo chambers. But overwhelmingly, the world I’ve engaged through Bob on Books is one inhabited by funny, creative, fascinating, and unique human beings who love and care, work and play, think and learn and share a common desire for a flourishing and civil world. Book people are like that. I count myself so blessed for the ways we’ve connected, both virtually, and face to face. Thank you. And Happy Thanksgiving, or whatever day it is for you if you are one who follows me in another country–I’m so grateful for all of you!

Review: Teach Us To Pray

teach us to pray

Teach Us To PrayGordon T. Smith. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018.

Summary: A concise guide to prayer based on the Lord’s prayer, with a central focus on the coming of the kingdom and a dependence upon the Spirit expressed in thanksgiving, confession, and discernment.

Perhaps one of the most common struggles for many Christians is the practice of prayer. Little wonder that the disciples, observing Jesus at prayer, ask him, “teach us to pray.” In this small but rich book, Gordon T. Smith considers the practice of prayer through the lens of the model prayer Jesus gave his disciples in response to their request.

Smith begins with the observation that the whole prayer turns on the central request, “thy kingdom come.” He writes:

When we pray “thy kingdom come,” should not our prayer be an act of recalibration? Could our praying be an act of intentional alignment and realignment? That is, in our prayer our vision of the kingdom purposes of God will be deepened and broadened; we will be drawn into the reality of Christ risen and now on the throne of the universe. And thus through our prayers we not only pray for the kingdom but come to increasingly live within the kingdom, under the reign of Christ. (p.11)

From our longing for the kingdom come flow three movements in prayer, each of which Smith takes a chapter to cover:

  • Thanksgiving: We align ourselves with God’s kingdom by recognizing how the kingdom has already come and is at work both in our lives and in the world. We celebrate the goodness of God, dwell in the love of God, and in suffering both lament (an acknowledgement and cry to the God we even yet believe is good) and trusting thanksgiving for that goodness and what is formed in us through suffering.
  • Confession: We align ourselves with God’s kingdom by acknowledging where we are out of line with God’s intentions, accept responsibility, seek God’s mercy, and both receive and grant forgiveness, as we embrace the way of truth and light.
  • Discernment: We align ourselves with God’s kingdom by asking and listening for God’s direction for how we may participate in his kingdom purposes. We learn to hear the voice of the Spirit through the noise of our lives as we pay attention to whether this direction is congruent with scripture, whether we have reached a place of holy indifference, and find affirmation within the community to whom we are accountable.

If these three movements arise from the centrality of the kingdom of God, they crucially depend upon the Spirit of God. The Spirit helps us see the good works of God, reveals our sin and humbles our hearts, and guides us in consolation.

Smith also emphasizes throughout the book how each of the three movements are realized in the Eucharist, as we give thanks for the work of Christ, come in repentance acknowledging the reconciliation won through the body and the blood, and strengthens us to say what we need to say and do what we need to do.

A concluding chapter then considers both corporate and personal prayer. Here, as elsewhere throughout the book, Smith commends the Psalms as both Israel’s and our prayer book. An afterword deals succinctly and helpfully with petition.

This is one of those books one can give a person just beginning in the practice of prayer, while enriching and deepening the practice of those who have prayed for some time. Smith shows us how prayer connects to a whole life lived around “thy kingdom come.” He weaves the importance of our dependence upon the Spirit, the richness of the scriptures and especially the Psalms, and our gatherings around the Lord’s table. And so we are taught to pray.





Memories of “over the river and through the woods.”

Of dinner’s at grandmother’s house,

Where we had to go for long walks to work off all the food.

Of mom’s turkey stuffing, and cranberry dressing and a big drumstick on my plate.

Men cleaning up in the kitchen afterwards, hand washing mountains of dishes,

and then gathering around to find out how badly the Lions would lose this year.


Memories of later years of dinners at the Timberlanes,

Of three hours, sometimes stretching to four or five in traffic,

All worth it to see loved ones once again,

and to give thanks for one more year of having them in our lives.


Those years have passed, as have those loved ones,

We still gather with family and friends,

No longer the youngest, nor yet the eldest,

but increasingly aware of the blessings of life, and health, and friends.


To remember opens one up to the fleeting character of our lives,

And yet also to the goodness of that life in all its brevity.

Family recipes and shared stories,

Delicious smells and inside jokes,

Grandpa nodding off while the children play, quarrel, and make up,

A tear for grandma who is no longer with us,

News of a baby on the way.


For a day we set the world’s troubles aside,

for the goodness of turkey and dressing,

pumpkin or sweet potato pie.

Shared in a circle of love.




Thanksgiving in Troubling Times

From both personal conversations and following numerous online conversations, I sense there are many who are deeply troubled by our recent elections–many by the tenor of these elections, some by the outcome, and still others by violent protests by some, and verbal, and sometimes physical attacks on people of color, immigrants, LGBT persons, and those who voted for the President-elect.

As one who ordinarily (sometimes to the annoyance of some family members!) enjoys political conversation, I sense this is a Thanksgiving where it would be well to leave this at the door. I’m just not sure what can be added to the interminable conversation of this past year except to give people indigestion. I’m not proposing Thanksgiving escapism, or dismissing the importance of the continuing concerns people have. It is simply that “to everything there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) and this is a season for thanksgiving, first of all to the host or whoever has provided the food and space to enjoy a meal together, and for the others gathered around. Anything else is just bad manners.

Beyond this, a few thoughts:

  • Take a social media and news media break. Anything really important will still be around on Monday, and you might have a better sense of proportion to engage it. And as compelling as your insights are to you, it probably has been said.
  • If you are hosting a gathering, you might find some humorous ways to let people know this is a “no politics zone.” Like signs, or the threat that there are no seconds on Mom’s famous recipe stuffing for anyone who talks politics.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not bring your cell phone to the dinner table! Put it on mute and check it only when you are not with real, physical people.
  • Focus on the real people in your life this weekend and the ties that bind you together. True, you may not agree on everything, and sometimes you annoy the heck out of each other. As a mental exercise, try to think of something about that person for which you can give thanks. Try real hard. Working those thankfulness muscles will put you in better condition to do the same for those out there we have to share the same country with.
  • Take time to savor the meal. Silently give thanks for each dish and verbally praise the one who made it. We rush through most dinners. This is one to savor, to enjoy good conversation as we move from appetizers to salads to main courses to desserts. Think of the time it takes to prepare this meal. It shouldn’t be all done in an hour.

It seems to me that it is actually quite a good thing that we have a day dedicated to giving thanks. From the Christian scriptures, the Apostle Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV). Reflecting on, as some families do around the table, what each person is thankful for from the past year is a good exercise. Some have taken it further and come up with a “Thirty Days of Thankfulness” challenge. It may be that it is good to end the day thinking of at least one thing we may give thanks for in each day.

Underlying this is an assumption about the way the world is. Thankfulness assumes that no matter how bad things may seem, goodness wins out in the end. Actually even our complaints about what we think is wrong assumes that there is something that is better, some way that things ought to be. As the old proverb goes, “it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Perhaps that could be a good accompaniment to “thanks-sharing” around the table, a beautiful way to begin or end a special meal.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Cranberry Salad


By Shadle (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

With Thanksgiving approaching I’ve been thinking about the great Thanksgiving dinners we used to have at my parents. There was always the turkey and dressing (mom made some of the best!) and the green bean casseroles and sweet potatoes and usually pumpkin and mince meat pies. But for some reason, I’ve been thinking this year of her cranberry salads–and wishing I had the recipe (if one of my siblings sees this and has it, I’d love a copy!). Big lesson here is make sure you ask your mom for all those great recipes while you can!

Here’s what I remember of her cranberry salads. I have no clue of quantities but they started with canned whole cranberries, I’m pretty sure a raspberry or cherry Jello, chopped walnuts, celery, and orange zest. But her secret ingredient that added that special something was 7-Up. That added a bit of a sweet tang that made it special.

I’ve seen similar recipes that add mayonnaise or whipped cream toppings. That was too much for her. She would simply serve a generous dollop on a piece of fresh lettuce, usually on the nice china salad plates we would only see on special occasions. And it was one of those dishes you could ask for more of without worrying about being stuffed.

I have to admit that this wasn’t as true as a kid when I was all about getting the big old drumstick and lots of dressing. But as I grew up I found myself enjoying that cranberry salad (some would call it a relish) more and more.

In the kitchen, I am not so much the cook as the assistant. I’m good (at least most of the time) at taking orders. But some time, I think I’d like to experiment and see if I can figure out how to make my mom’s cranberry salad. And if I do, I’ll let you know!

Meanwhile, I would love to hear your favorite cranberry salad or relish recipes. From what I see, there are lots of different ways people like to do this, and like so many other things, I suspect no one does it better than my fellow Youngstowners!

Happy Thanksgiving!