The smell of cooking drifted through the hallway, enticing residents and staff members in the building. This was obviously the start of a Thanksgiving feast.
While turkey may be the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving meals, side dishes play an important role in holiday traditions. That's why Linda Semmel of Lehighton was there to help the residents of The Summit Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Lehighton prepare filling for their Thanksgiving meal, using a favorite recipe from her own family's table.
Working at her side was Semmel's mother, Betty Schoenberger, now a resident at The Summit.
"Until about four years ago, we still went to her home and helped her to prepare our Thanksgiving meal," said Semmel, stirring vegetables as Schoenberger looked on.
Semmel noted that family plays an important role in every holiday. When her mother first entered The Summit, the family brought her home for holidays so that she could help with the meal and spend more time with family members. That wasn't possible this year, so Semmel decided to start a new tradition.
"Even though we can't get her to the house, we wanted to make sure she was involved," she said. "We thought it would be nice to bring this here and to share it with everyone."
As Semmel led the residents through the steps of cooking "Eileen's Filling," a recipe passed on from a family friend, the women shared stories about their favorite Thanksgiving traditions. Many of the stories revolved around family members and food, of course.
For the Schoenberger family, Thanksgiving was a time to be thankful. Semmel shared stories of her late father, George Schoenberger. George often noted that while the family didn't have a lot, they had more than many and needed to share their good fortune. Their holiday table was filled with guests and family members, including her brothers Gary and Larry.
This popular side dish is known as either stuffing or filling but as Betty pointed out while sharing this recipe, it's not "stuffing" unless it's cooking in the bird.
"Eileen's Filling" made an appearance each year at the Schoenberger table, brought by a family friend named Eileen.
For many of the Summit residents, their roommates and hall mates are now members of an extended family. While some will go home to enjoy Thanksgiving, many wish to share the meal with their friends and neighbors in the building. The staff offers a Thanksgiving meal early in November to give residents a chance to celebrate with friends and family both on and off campus.
"How many cups of broth did we add?" asked Semmel, laughing as she tried to keep track. It wasn't an easy task, because they had multiplied the family recipe several times to feed all of the residents. She gave the filling a quick stir and added more broth.
Betty coached her as they added the last ingredients, telling her daughter to add less salt. Then came the best part taste testing. Residents were eager to help with this step, adding helpful critiques and suggestions.
"It feels good to bring this here and share it with these ladies," said Semmel. "As our family changes, who we celebrate with changes. This is my mother's family now, too."