brusselsproutsstrawberriesAs I am writing this Chair’s Report for the December 2016 issue of TIRF Today, I am somewhat distracted by thinking about all the things I have to do today. The to-do list is long and intimidating because tomorrow I am leaving home on an eight-hour drive to Southern California to spend the holidays with my family.

As much as I look forward to seeing my family, I always dread the day before a big trip. I’m experiencing that odd state of mind that my colleague, Ryan Damerow (TIRF’s Chief Operating Officer), refers to as my “pre-departure meltdown.” It is a combination of anxiety, annoyance, and excitement. While I’m trying to finish calculating my students’ grades for the semester, I’m also thinking about what I need to pack for the trip: the manuscript I promised to review, the new edition of a book I’ll be using in a course in January, the charger for my cell phone, the mouse for my laptop, and so on and so on.

One of my least favorite chores before leaving on a trip is clearing out the refrigerator. What should I do with the food that hasn’t been eaten? Right now I have a pot of home-made chicken soup simmering on the stove because I had left-over chicken and some vegetables that I didn’t want to throw away. But what should I do with the yam that’s gone squishy? Will those fresh limes last for nine days while I’m away, or should I give them to my neighbor? And what about those brussel sprouts – would they be a good addition to chicken soup?

Common sense over-rules my tendency to experiment in the kitchen, so the brussel sprouts are not tossed into the soup pot. But at the same time, in preparation for this trip, I haven’t bought any food recently, so the food supply in the house consists of an odd assortment of strawberry cream cheese, salad dressing, catsup, parmesan cheese, and Tabasco sauce.  (Would strawberry cream cheese go with brussel sprouts? Hmm. Maybe not.)  As a result, I ended up cooking the brussel sprouts for breakfast.

Yes, even I thought that was a strange breakfast choice, and I am an omnivore! But I hate to throw food away, and here at TIRF we make use of whatever resources we have.

As I was contemplating my green breakfast, a thought occurred to me. Rather than wishing for an omelet or a stack of blueberry pancakes, I should be cross-cultural and remember that people in many countries eat breakfasts that are unfamiliar and may even seem strange to me. (The first time I encountered umeboshi at the breakfast buffet in a Japanese hotel, I was very puzzled – but now I love these salty pickled plum-like fruits!)

Having embarked on introspective reflections about breakfast, two other thoughts occurred: First, how many people around the world have the luxury of having fresh vegetables languishing in their refrigerators? And second, how many people around the world have no breakfast at all? I should be very grateful for these week-old brussel sprouts and the opportunity they have provided me to realize how blessed I really am.

I also realize that there are many, many worthy causes which our readers could be supporting in these last few days of 2016. I hope that while you are considering your year-end donations to whatever charities you may support, that you will consider including TIRF in your philanthropic giving. Even if your gift to TIRF is old brussel sprouts – maybe not topped with strawberry cream cheese – we’ll be happy to accept. Please click here to donate your brussel sprouts to TIRF.

Best wishes,