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This Thanksgiving, Write It Down

- November 18, 2023

Editor’s Note: Share your favorite recipes with us (Thanksgiving themed or not) and we might use yours in our next Saturday issue.

In our podcast recorded Wednesday night, Shaun Kenney, Cori Blanche, and I turned off the political discussions and turned on the memories.

Thanksgiving memories, to be exact. The episode, which drops Monday on Spotify, found its most-meaningful moment when Cori talked about the way food is an expression of familial love.

As often happens when I’m on the air, the things I want to say come to mind after the mics are off. Such was the case with Cory’s comment, which sparked a delayed memory of my mother’s expression of love that I use without fail most every week.

It’s a simple cookbook she put together for my brother and I.

The recipes are classic comfort food, like my mom’s recipe for potato soup – still a favorite on cold weekend days and long winter nights.

“I just make potato soup,” my mom wrote. “I really don’t have a recipe.” But she put one together, anyway. I follow it to the letter, but my daughter – whose tastebuds are remarkably attuned to the way grandma’s dishes taste, loves to remind me that “grandma makes it better.”

It’s the stories mom shares that make this homemade cookbook work. The recipes are simply a nice touch.

The most compelling story is the one about how she learned to cook. I reproduce it here in its entirety – it’s worth the read.

Marty recently asked me where I learned to cook. Daddy had an aunt, I called her Ma White. She and Pa White ran a boarding house and small neighborhood grocery store on Chapel Hill Street right before the train trestle to Five Points. The steps are still there that went from the street to the house and store. I stayed with them a lot while Mother worked. Ma White served lunch everyday to Liggett& Myers workers (it was just across the railroad tracks). She would serve 100-150 people lunch every day for 50 cents per plate – all you could eat! She always had country style steak, friend chicken, and several vegetables. I watched her cook and as I got older, she let me help. I shelled beans, peeled potatoes, filled salt and pepper shakers and kept bowls filled. Funny what you remember as a child – I remember when the end of World War II was announced – everyone was running down Chapel Hill Street, hollering “The War Is Over! – Duke Memorial Church bells ringing very loud – the whistles at the two tobacco factories going off at full blast – I was only three years old but I vividly remember this scene and wondering what was going on!

The country style steak made it into the recipe book, and many of the vegetables she made with Ma White.

The way I learned to cook was not all that different. I watched mom, and bit by bit, she let me help.

The recipe book is now 22 years old.

And though I can’t see my mom as much as I’d like at her home in North Carolina, she’s there with me every week when I return to those pages and cook a bit of home for my family.

This Thanksgiving, capture some of the special dishes by writing them down for your children. Better yet, let them help you.

Then add the stories.

It’s a simple act that Thanksgiving is meant to birth. And reconnects us to who we are, where we come from, and the values we take into the future.

Martin Davis is editor-in-chief of the FXBG Advance

- Published posts: 58

Martin Davis is the founder and editor of the Fredericksburg Advance.

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