Eastern faculty share Thanksgiving traditions


Rob Le Cates

Shelby Swinford is handed a tray of food during the CCAR Thanksgiving luncheon Tuesday afternoon.

Adriana Hernandez-Santana, Features Junior Editor

When people think of Thanksgiving. For some people, it’s football. For others, it’s the massive Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but there is a common tradition for this holiday; making memories with families. 

And as many individuals know, whenever there’s family, the food isn’t too far behind.

Everyone’s got their favorite dish. Some things are pretty common, while others can be rather different. One thing is for sure, there’s bound to be a lot of food to be shared. 

Head Eastern Football Coach Christopher Wilkerson said that his family does do the traditional foods like turkey, stove top stuffing and mashed potatoes.  

They also have some non-traditional foods as well. Since his wife Sharna is from Australia, they love to add shepherd’s pie and a potato bake to the Thanksgiving menu. Plus, every once in a while, the family will ditch the turkey and have prime ribs instead. 

As for desserts, Wilkerson says that his wife makes some delicious desserts such as a caramel tart, as well as pavlova, which is a type of marshmallow-ly margarine. 

His mom also makes a black-bottom pie, which is similar to a chocolate custard with whipped cream on the top. 

As for his children Bella, Peyton and Charlotte, they have an interesting favorite food recommendation. Spaghetti, but not just any spaghetti; it has to be the Brooklyn spaghetti from Denny’s. There is a reason as to why this dish is so memorable for them though. 

“One year my wife was overseas and so we had Thanksgiving Dinner at Denny’s,” Wilkerson said. “Then the next year when she was back, we tried it again and again. It was an amazing time and some great stories.”

Overall, Wilkerson says that he’s grateful for everything that he has in his life, and how much Eastern has become a special place for everyone in his family.

“I am grateful for so many things,” Wilkerson said. “Mostly my family and friends, and the opportunity to be back at EIU and give back to a place that gave so much to me and my family.”

Kristin Routt, a professor of Spanish and Latin American studies, said that she has two favorite Thanksgiving dishes: dressing with cranberry-horseradish and derby pie, which is a chocolate and walnut pie. 

Routt also shares that she is extremely grateful that her and her spouse are able to live close enough to be able to see both of their families for the break. 

According to Routt, there was a time that the couple would only be able to see her family since her spouse’s family lived in L.A. and El Savador. But by the early 2000’s, “four of his siblings had moved to southern Indiana,” which is near her family. The couple expresses thankfulness as they are finally able to start seeing their extended families more often. 

“We are fortunate to live relatively close to our extended families,” Routt said. “It has allowed us to be a part of the lives of our nieces, nephews and now even great-nieces; and to see our daughters have meaningful relationships with their cousins. We are grateful for the privileges of living in a safe country, having the resources to travel to visit family, and being free from want.”


Adriana Hernandez-Santana can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].