Saturday, November 28, 2009


by Ellen Hill

As someone who loves to cook, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to incorporate the tried and true family favorites with some new innovations. I use my mother's recipes for stuffing and sweet potatoes. I start cooking the day before and get up early Thanksgiving to put the turkey in the oven, which was also my mother's routine for the day. When my son Michael was teenager, I taught him how to make everything on the table and over time his own innovations appeared on our table. I wanted simply for my son to be a good cook. My other goal was that he could replicate what he liked and no future wife would be held hostage to a memory she was unable to duplicate.

Personally, I always get rather annoyed when someone says, "anyone can follow a recipe" because it doesn’t begin to cover what cooking is really about. My own mother's recipes included pinches, splashes, skoshes, smidgins and various spices that were never measured. Her menus were based on how to put food on the table from paycheck to paycheck. She shopped in season, bought on sale, and tried to make everything pretty on the plate. Some weeks were leaner than others but seven days a week we sat down together for dinner as a family. We shared, not just the meal, but all the happenings of our day. Our conversations were always spirited and often the food became secondary. Dinner laid the foundation of our family. So it was with my own children. In a different, more complicated world, dinner became movable. Our dinnertime shifted from day to day but we always ate together and the tradition of lively conversation was passed on to the next generation.

Michael lives in DC now. He makes the Thanksgiving meal, from turkey to pie. Then he fills his home with friends and co-workers. Michael creates his own traditions using recipes not only from his grandmother and me, but new dishes of his own creation. It is hard not to have Michael and his sister Megan with us, but somehow we are still together. Everyone is at the table.

We are all present in the memories served in every dish.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Ellen Hill is a longtime member of St. Paul's.

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