Just the Two of Us – Thanksgiving in the Time of Pandemic

Last week my home state of Massachusetts tried really hard to get in touch. Phone calls, text messages, even an email from Congressman McGovern. All telling us not to have Thanksgiving with anyone beyond those you live with. Seriously, their message was to lock it down. Naturally there were a few caveats for those folks who are determined to go against the recommendations. If you are someone who decides not to follow the sage advice of health officials then your ill-conceived gathering should be limited to 10 people inside or 25 people outside.

Pond alongside logging road in fall.

Here’s my truth – our house is so small if I invited 10 people inside to eat it would become a super-spreader event. Plus eating outdoors at this time of year? Brrr. I’ve been doing the al fresco, twelve-feet-apart dining* on those few occasions when our adult children visited us during 2020. What was lovely in June, became brisk in October, and has turned frigid earlier in November. I appreciate how fantabulous it is to see those who are dear to your heart. Even if you can’t hug them, it is wonderful just to be a masked six feet away from them. However eating outside in New England, during November is cold, really cold. So this year will just be my husband and myself at the table. *We increase the recommended distance when we take our masks off to eat.

Added to this current national health crisis, there is also the Thanksgiving myth I have been grappling with. I say myth, because the holiday many of us celebrate is a Thanksgiving based on Governor William Bradford’s colonial version of a “first thanksgiving” gathering. There is no inclusion of the Wampanoag people’s perspective (in case your 3rd grade teacher was remiss, the Wampanoag people inhabited the area now known as Plymouth for thousands of years before the Pilgrims ever set foot on the Mayflower). If you are interested in learning more I suggest listening to Paula Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Nation, describe the Mayflower story from a Wampanoag point of view, which you may see/listen to here.

One other great resource is a recent podcast on All My Relations. Matika Wilbur from the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes and Dr. Adrienne Keene, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, host Wampanoag scholars Paula Peters and Linda Coombs in an episode entitled ThanksTaking or ThanksGiving?

Fall leaves on mossy rocks.

For the last few years my nuclear family has chosen to come together near, but not always on, national turkey day. This is because we choose not to celebrate a moment between our early settler ancestors and the Wampanoag people which eventually led to colonization and genocide. Instead, while we overindulge in tryptophan and pumpkin pie, we celebrate being here and now with each other. Our focus is around the traditional meal we all enjoy, and acknowledging how lucky we are to have access to such amazing food (and people willing to cook it all!). We pay attention to how much we love one another. We appreciate the beautiful place we live, where the kids grew up. It is a moment for us to collectively take a breath, give thanks, and eat pie.

This Thanksgiving perspective shift came about after Isabelle and Russell returned from their respective church youth group pilgrimages to Borderlands, an Episcopal retreat in South Dakota. A spiritual center and retreat, Borderlands occupies land in the Pe Sla – the heart of the heart of Lakota sacred lands in the Black Hills. It is an environment where two cultures – the First Nations peoples, as well as Celtic and Episcopal traditions – meet. After returning from this sacred place both kids shared with us what an amazing journey they had. Having the opportunity to meet with and learn from people of other cultures, visiting sacred sites, learning about the spiritual ceremonies and ways of the Lakota people, as well as connecting with nature, fundamentally changed their perspectives. It opened them to questioning and reexamining the stories and “history” they had been taught in school. Ever since we have endeavored to craft something different for our family.

Fall bounty from Golunka's Farm.

So what will I be cooking this year? Good question. I like turkey, but not enough to be eating it for the next two weeks. If your are a follower of this blog you know my primary focus is on food – not politics (though food is political); not history (though our history may often be traced through food). Just a smörgåsbord of food. Foods I grew up with, foods I’ve discovered, foods I want to make again and again and again.

This year I think a huge plate of dumplings would be something to be thankful for. Frankie Gaw’s butternut squash and mushroom dumplings to be specific. After years of making dumpling with store-bought wrappers, Gaw, of the blog Little Fat Boy, has gotten me into making my own dumpling wrappers! Which is wild, though my pleating is not as good as his. Guess I’ll have to keep making (and eating) dumplings till I improve. Also there are a few bags of charcoal in the basement so Shawn wants to bust out the grill. Perhaps there will be grilled lamb chops or even a smoked chicken near turkey day to go with the dumplings. Stay tuned and peace be with you.

November sunrise on North Farms Road.

If you want to learn more about Native people and critical issues facing their communities I would strongly encourage you to subscribe or listen to the All My Relations podcast. I have been listening for over a year, and it is in my top 10 list of podcasts to subscribe to. Wilbur and Keene, along with all their guests, have taught me so much, for which I am very grateful.

Give a listen to Rachel Maddow’s heartfelt plea asking people to recalibrate their thoughts on “acceptable risk” around Ciovid-19.

Want a killer pumpkin pie recipe? Try my blue ribbon pumpkin pie.

Read the suppressed speech of Frank James, Wampanoag. Invited to talk to Pilgrim descendants at the 350th celebration of the Mayflower’s arrival, James was banned from speaking at the event once organizers realized he was not going to present the happy turkey version they so venerated. Instead he climbed a hill overlooking Plymouth Rock and spoke to the Native Peoples and supporters who had gathered. His words sparked what is now the National Day of Mourning.

Want to know more about the guy who “invented” Thanksgiving? Here is the story of William Bradford.

Are you ready to up your dumpling game? Subscribe or follow Frankie Gaw on his blog Little Fat Boy.

As I dive into learning more about the history of this country I want to acknowledge I am proud of my ancestors, the Wing family. Asa Wing fought in the Civil War and ultimately became an abolitionist in Mexico, New York. It is an honor to have an ancestor who worked to thwart slavery. This journey of self-education is more about understanding the full history of America, without whitewashing the realities and results of colonialism.

Wild turkeys who will not be eaten for Thanksgiving.


Filed under 50 Recipes

How We Shop Now

For the majority of my life I have loved food shopping. It is what you do prior to cooking, and cooking as you may have guessed from reading this blog, is one of my joys. What I know from years of grocery shopping is this:

  • Each store is unique
  • Shopping where there are happy & knowledgable employees is more fun
  • Mentally bookmark stores with unique/quirky items
  • Not all bulk sections carry foods you want to (or should) buy
  • Produce sections tell you a lot about the community
  • Not all of us like other people packing our shopping bags

Then there are the farmer’s markets – a wonderful subset of places to food shop. Loved both because my dear Grammy Caldwell started taking me to them when I was a young girl, plus they give you an opportunity to speak with the farmer who grew the food, and you get to go shopping outdoors! My lifelong love of farmer’s markets and farm stands is something I’ve written about here and here and here.

The thing is food shopping isn’t what it once was. Continue reading


May 2, 2020 · 8:55 am

Sunshine Milk

Marshes on Nantucket

It may be the beginning of April, though honestly March does not feel as if it were just a month ago – it feels instead like an entire year ago. Given the planet is in the middle of a pandemic my sense of time is completely skewed.

Low tide on Nantucket Island

My grandparents, and presumably yours, lived through the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19. Hundreds of thousands of people lived with the terror of Polio until a vaccine was created in 1955. Covid-19 is the most recent disease to sweep across the globe. I’m not a scientist so I have no advice to offer of how to cure this disease. Nor am I a doctor, so again, no brilliant insights of how you can attempt to avoid this disease, though there are several things you can do to help “flatten the curve”*, and I sincerely hope you are able to do them. As someone who is most often found in the kitchen, all I can offer you at this moment is a bit of sunshine in a cup. Continue reading


Filed under 50 Recipes

Celebrating a Second Spring with Stinging Nettle Soup

Spring is an elusive season here in New England. You’ll get a 60º day, followed by days of rain, sleet, and even snow. Or Mother Nature will deliver us a handful of spring days, follow them up with a few weeks of mud season, then boom thrust into the dog days of summer. I imagine her cackling, pretending to be sorry we didn’t get more spring-like days, but really she’s not sorry one whit. Which is why it feels as if we won the weather jackpot this year.

Spring buds in Oklahoma City

After our youngest moved out of the house in January, my husband and I realized how much extra space we had. So we decided to bring our daughter all the things she’d been storing at our house, combine the massive drop-off with a mini family vacation, and gain even more space in our cozy home. Because let’s face it, to truly become empty nesters we needed the house to be emptied of all the kid’s stuff.

Weeks prior to our departure we swept through the house, finding stashes of books, clothes, art supplies, tools, sleeping bags, and letters our daughter had saved. Once it was all staged Shawn started to box it up. There were more than a few discussions where we wondered if all of her stuff  would fit in the back of the truck. Thankfully it all fit in, like some sort of crazy 3-D puzzle. And so a few days after our 25th wedding anniversary* we took off like a herd of turtles. The back seat of the truck was stuffed high with our own travel gear, a few knitting projects for the road, some books on tape, and our dog Oliver who was happily perched high atop all these bags ensuring a proper view out the window. Just 1,623 miles to the “drop off.” Continue reading


Filed under 50 Recipes

Beware the Whomping Willows

Things don’t always turn out as you’d expect.

Dunes at Tyndall AFB

After having children I developed a sixth sense (otherwise known as Mom logic) for figuring out what might happen, then preparing for it. Part of my job as food stylist was to anticipate the unexpected. I’d pack my kit, knife bag, and various tools, but in addition I’d have plans B, C, D & E ready for when things went sideways. And trust me – they almost always went sideways.

My best friend and I are both firm believers in imagining the worst possible scenario in any given situation so when it doesn’t happen, as it usually doesn’t, anything else which might have cropped up is a cake-walk (note my husband and therapist are not fans of this last method even if I think it works for me).

The point in noting all of this is simply to say that usually I can deal with most of what life throws at me and mine. Not always gracefully, but I manage. Occasionally even with a modicum of aplomb. Continue reading


Filed under In between