Empty Bowls

When I arrived at Jenna Brubaker’s home I knew I had about 15 minutes to shoot before I lost my light. Luckily everything went smoothly and I was happy to get this shot.

Jenna Brubaker works on a bowl for the Empty Bowls program in her home pottery studio in Concord, Va. The program pairs potters and chefs who donate their respective skills and hosts a soup dinner that raises money for food shelves. After participating in the program elsewhere, she spent several years establishing a chapter in Virginia.

A Place for Everyone

If I have a Thanksgiving tradition, it is that I eat in a different place every year. Not on purpose, I guess, but I have moved around so much the last few years that every November I realize, once again, I won’t be able to make it home. Growing up I can remember spending several Thanksgivings at my grandparents’ home in Burnsville, MN (because they made us sit at the “kids’ table”) and a couple more at my aunt’s home in Andover, MN (because she is the Queen of Mashed Potatoes). But for the last four years I have been in as many different states – IN, MO, MN, VA – and each time found a seat at a new table with great food and great company.

Working on Thanksgiving this year, I was able to experience the holiday with even more people and hear about their traditions (or lack thereof). The first photo is couple who are anticipating 25 guests and are cooking two turkeys to make sure everyone has plenty to eat. The second is from a church in Bedford, VA, that offered a free meal to anyone in the community who wanted to join. Some church members said openly that the church felt more like a family than their real family.

  • Cheryl and Willie Martin of Campbell County fill up their cart to overflowing with ingredients for their Thanksgiving feast at a grocery store in Lynchburg, Va.
  • Monique Blake encourages her son, Raekwan, to eat more of his vegetables during a free Thanksgiving dinner organized and hosted by members of Life Church in Bedford, Va.

Thanksgiving Came Early

To accommodate multiple schedules that had people working on Thanksgiving (mine included), Marley’s mother and stepfather moved their Thanksgiving dinner up a day so we could all make it. I was instructed to “bring bread” and I decided to try making rolls. I probably could have picked a lower-profile venue as my baking debut but, despite being smaller than I had hoped, they turned out soft and rather tasty. The meal was delicious and soul-satisfying, and it made me very thankful to once again find myself surrounded by friends.

Wine at the Jeffersons’

About 10 minutes west of Lynchburg is Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, an estate that Mr. Jefferson designed and inhabited for 14 years. Last year, for the first time, the nonprofit that manages the estate organized the Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival to generate more interest in the site and support Virginia wineries. They hoped would become an annual event and attract people from across the region.

I saw this event advertised several weeks ago and I had intended on going, so I was glad to see the photo request under my name. Although the friendly crowds and great weather made this a fun assignment, I would have preferred to enjoy this afternoon with a glass of Merlot or Malbec in my hand. Some days are meant to be lived, not photographed. Hopefully I can get this day off next year.