I do. Though, fortunately, not very often. It did happen to me a few days ago, and it wasn’t pretty. Literally everything — from the way-too-hot-for-this-time-of-year weather, to the dirt on the floor that somebody tracked in, to the pile of laundry in the hallway — was completely and utterly annoying. And, what was even more bothersome about the whole situation was that, even after I realized how miserable I was being, I couldn’t make it go away.
What could I do? (What do you do?) All I could come up with was to channel a little Oprah and ask myself some very pointed questions, like: “What is ‘annoyance’ and what causes me to feel that way? Am I sad about something? Upset? Or angry? If so, about what?” But even after mulling over those questions for most of the morning, I couldn’t come up with any good answers.
Fortunately, John encouraged me to go to yoga. And as I lay there on my mat in that stinky room (which, incidentally, is truly annoying, ha), the answer I was looking for just popped into my head.
Here’s what I realized: Annoyance is the anthesis of gratefulness. So, when I feel annoyed, it’s virtually impossible to appreciate anything in my life … like the fact that I could even be in a yoga class, stretching and breathing and standing strong on my own two feet. (Or the fact that I live in my favorite city in the world, in a house I love, with a family that I absolutely adore. Or the fact that, everyday, I am able to do things like cook and write and read and spend time with family and friends.) Fittingly, once I began to focus on the things in my life that I love and appreciate, that ugly cloud of annoyance began to fade.
When I got home from yoga, I gave my (deserving) husband a squeeze, and then we decided to invite over friends and family for burgers that evening. It was so much fun, and we had such good food. We grilled lamb, bison, and beef burgers, and I made my favorite broccoli salad to serve as a side, plus a little mac-&-cheese for the kiddos (although, I think the dads ate most of it). Above all, I’m just so glad I didn’t waste another minute of this precious life in that unappreciative and ungrateful “annoyed” state of mind. If you’re interested, the recipe for, and a little history of the broccoli salad is provided below. Keep it in mind for any upcoming fall dinners, especially Thanksgiving!
Marinated Broccoli Salad*
My family has been making marinated broccoli salad on Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember. We all love it (although I usually avoid the onions, my Uncle David can’t eat cucumbers, and my brother Chris picks out the olives). The fact that this is possible is actually one of the great things about this salad. Because each ingredient is served whole or in large pieces, it’s easy for selective eaters to dodge whatever they don’t like without causing a scene.
The other nice thing about this salad is that it is served at room temperature. This means that you can prepare it ahead of time (the longer it marinates, the better), and then just pop it on the table when it’s time to eat. On Thanksgiving, having at least one dish that doesn’t require the always-scarce oven space is truly a blessing.
Finally, unlike many other Thanksgiving traditions, this salad is actually good for you! With steamed broccoli, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, and onions, this salad provides a nice balance to other more indulgent dishes. Who knows … if you end up enjoying it as much as we do, you just might add it to your weeknight line up!
3 large stalks broccoli
12 cherry tomatoes
15 pitted Kalamata olives
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
½ red onion, thinly sliced (optional)
1 jar (6 to 6 ½ ounces) marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cut broccoli florets off the stems. Place in a steamer basket with a small amount of water; steam, covered, until tender. (Here’s a trick my dad taught me: When you can smell the broccoli, it is done cooking. Try it — it works!) Remove broccoli from stove and cool completely.
In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, tomatoes, olives, cucumber, onion and artichokes. In small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Pour over vegetables and toss to coat. Marinate for 10 minutes or longer.
*A similar version of this recipe is available in my cookbook, Cooking With Marie: On Any Occasion! (p.101).