Overseas, the craving attacks are sudden and unpredictable. At any place. At any hour. I could be mid-course in a delicious meal and suddenly be paralyzed by the thought of a certain food or flavor. Sometimes a flash of #foodporn or a #foodstagram scrolling across my iPhone screen will trigger an event. Other times, it’s while I’m exhausted after practice trying to muster the strength to cook dinner. But by far, the worst are the text messages I routinely receive at 2 and 3AM from “friends” on the west coast poking fun at the absence of In N Out, Chipotle and Popeyes.
Once the idea is planted, once you start trying to remember what Stack’s Banana Macadamia Nut & Coconut pancakes taste like, or a Chik-Fil-A chicken biscuit with grape jelly and honey, or mom’s spaghetti, a double-double, a Sprinkle’s red velvet cupcake, dad’s barbecue, hell even an Oreo milkshake from J-Bo, or Checker’s fries, or wait… no, a steak burrito bow—*wipes drool from keyboard*. You get the point. It’s a dangerous game to play with the mind. More often than not, these episodes end with me wide awake at 3:25AM on the couch munching on hummus and chips.
Hummus binges aside, I’ve managed these urges well. I redirect the frustration into my own cooking. I’ve been expanding my culinary horizons, breaking routine and trying new recipes that require spices I don’t regularly stock in my pantry. Earlier this week I finally got the flavors right in my Indian yellow chicken curry. If the taste is basic enough and can be replicated, I do my own rendition. ‘Merican “burger and fries night” is a regular event on my calendar. And for those hard to reach cravings, once or twice a week I treat myself to a meal at a restaurant in Tel Aviv.
But even with my latest strides in self discipline, I didn’t quite know what to expect from today—Thanksgiving. We’re not talking about simple cravings here. This is the feast of all feasts. The cornucopia of flavors at work is highly complex, artistically engineered, and painstakingly crafted with each serving.
Wouldn’t I miss the beauty that is the intersection of cranberry sauce, mac n’ cheese, collard greens and candied yams on a messy plate? How could I overcome the longing for warm pumpkin pie and whipped cream or juicy dark turkey meat and mashed potato sandwiches? No grocery store run, no explosion of culinary creativity and no restaurant is going to fix that. And to my great surprise, hummus won’t either.
So instead of the food, I take a bit of extra time to focus on just a few (of the many) things I’m thankful for each and everyday here in my new home. I am reminded that living and working overseas comes with daily challenges much greater than occasional holiday food cravings. I thank God just for the opportunity—to wake up, to act, to give. Being thousands of miles from home, I am blessed to have family, friends and loved ones that inspire me and help push me closer to my dreams. With FaceTime or a simple text message, they are never out of reach. I can’t begin to explain how incredibly lucky I am for teammates from last season that also made the voyage to Tel Aviv. Even on the most frustrating, stressful days, our customary Fun Run tournaments lighten the mood. I give thanks for my fellow Stanford family playing in Israel that look out for me. I am grateful for an organization, staff, and team that truly cares about its players. This game of basketball is a beautiful thing. I am thankful to play a sport I love, and even more so to call it a career.
Sure I’ll miss the food today. Who knows, maybe I’ll give in and cook some festive dishes on my next off day. These things take time. For now I simply appreciate the time to quietly sit back, reflect and give thanks. However you’re celebrating, I hope you have the chance to do the same. In the mean time, enjoy the company of family and friends (near or far) and delicious food (whether it’s slow roasted turkey or Chinese takeout). There is much for which to be grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!