Emily’s Home Cooking

The Common Ground

I grew up without siblings or extended family but I always had a magical & chaotic Thanksgiving! ✨
There was an employee-owned restaurant called The Common Ground in Brattleboro that was the first vegetarian restaurant in Vermont when it opened in 1971.

But they served meat one day a year – Turkey Day – at a volunteer-run free community meal. The restaurant staff wanted folks to have company and a familiar meal, and knew preventing loneliness and hunger far outweighed any notions of dietary morality.

So, we roasted dozens of huge donated birds and made gravy, stuffing, squash, green beans, mashed potatoes. We served cider, apple crisp, and pumpkin pie with ice cream. Stuffed squash with cashew gravy for the vegetarian main. People who couldn’t come called in orders all day and they were boxed up and delivered.

That’s what I did every year on Thanksgiving growing up: spend hours prepping vegetables the evening before, returning early in the morning to cook. The children volunteers were dispatched as servers (with real ticket books!): who wanted dark or white meat or a vegetarian plate, and which tables – beautifully set long communal tables – needed more bread and butter.

My dad spent the day listening to rock & roll in the dish pit and my mom took the reigns on making proper gravy in a kitchen run by vegetarians – she said the trick is to keep whisking and don’t be afraid to make a mess.

When I’m in the kitchen that’s the memory I’m always working to re-create. That well-polished memory, an amalgamation of all the years I experienced that day through the lens of a growing mind, is present in everything I cook as long as I remember how magical it feels to care for one another.