Monthly Archives: November 2016


Scott and I spent a week and a half in Ireland last month. We toured historic sites, drove narrow roads on the left side, and ate a huge number of potatoes. In one memorable meal, I ordered a potato-topped seafood pie and was served both mashed and roasted potatoes alongside the dish containing the pie.

Despite the fact that I love them dearly, potatoes are not one of the vegetables I often cook at home. Scott is often eating a low carb diet, which means that potatoes are outlawed. When he is eating a more extensive array of foods, I realize that I associate potatoes with an unhealthy diet and so eliminate them from my shopping trips.

However, they are delicious. And filling. And versatile. And they don’t necessarily have to keep company with sour cream, butter, and cheese (though god knows, that makes them infinitely more appealing).

I was in college when I had the best baked potato of my life. My parents were in town for the weekend visiting me and we drove from Walla Walla to a little town maybe 45 minutes north (the name currently escapes me). After wandering through the town, we ended up in a local bar for lunch. My mom was skeptical, but the only other restaurant was full and we were hungry.

In the end, it was one of the better meals of my life. All the food was homemade, and then there was that magical baked potato. It had a crisp exterior, but was entirely tender on the inside. It was topped with sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, garlic, and shredded cheddar cheese.

I’ve made versions of it many times in the years since, but it’s never quite as good as it was that autumn day with my parents.

The Monday Before Thanksgiving


It’s afternoon on the Monday before Thanksgiving. We’re hosting a small dinner for the first time in years. The last time I cooked the full meal was in 2008, when Scott’s mom came up to Philly and we told her we were getting married. I ordered a heritage turkey that year, and in attempt to please all parties, made at least seven sides.

In the years between then and now, our Thanksgivings have been focused on Joan and doing our best to make it festive for her. Three or four times, we went to Scott’s aunt and uncle’s house in Virginia, where I’d bring all the baked goods redo dishes for hours after we’d finished eating, in an attempt to prove my worth to the family I was still trying to join.

There were a couple trips up north to Long Island, as well as the years when we ordered complete meals from Whole Foods and brought them to Joan’s suburban Virginia apartment. Every one of those meals was an exercise in surrender for me, as I had no control over the food or the flow.

I was supposed to cook last year, but that was when Joan got so sick. Instead of spending the day blissfully engaged in culinary activity, Scott and I drove to New York. We took a couple hours away from sitting with her in the hospital to eat Thanksgiving dinner at a diner on Long Island with Scott’s brother and girlfriend.

This Thursday, Sean, Liz, and her mom are driving down from New York to spend the holiday with us. I’ll cook turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and gingery squash (a creation of my cousin Jeremy). I’ve made lists, I’ve shopped, and I’ve cleaned the kitchen. Though I’m cooking and feeding people on my turf, I’m still actively reminding myself to curtail my expectations and my ever-present desire to control how things are unfolding.

PS – I am continually grateful for the fact that nearly every year, I get to have two Thanksgivings. We have traditionally spent Thursday with Scott’s family, while my family celebrates on Saturday. This meal is served potluck style and I traditionally bring a slow cooker full of mashed potatoes and enough gravy to satisfy a legion of hungry eaters. This is a gathering at which I feel no need to prove myself and my need for control somehow takes care of itself.