A “Star-Spangled” Thanksgiving Celebrated at Watchung Hills

By Denis J. Kelly, The Alternative Press

Friday, November 21, 2014

WARREN, NJ – Watchung Hills Regional High School Food Services Director Lisa Martins, and her staff of 21 from Pomponian Food Service, arrived at 3:45 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 20, to get eight 34 pound turkeys in the oven for the 6th annual Thanksgiving at the Hills lunch. This year’s Thanksgiving at the Hills was dubbed, “A Star Spangled Thanksgiving,” celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the writing and composing of The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key, 35. He wrote it after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Md., by ships from the British Royal Navy. The song was made the national anthem by a congressional resolution, which was signed President Herbert Hoover in 1931.

 The Watchung Hills Chorus, under the direction of music teacher Angela DiIorio Bird, sang the Star Spangled Banner, in both of the school’s cafeterias during the lunch period.

“It was wonderful to see the students quiet down when Mrs. Bird asked them to,” said Martins, “and then to see them all stand as the chorus started to sing the song.” Helping the food services staff and Chef Frank Kelly carve the turkey and serve the food were Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett, Director of Operations Roland Juliano, Special Services teacher Roseanne Klink, Transportation Coordinator Janet Triantafyllou, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent Dina Ballaro, Executive Assistant to the Business Administrator Brenda Fleischer, and Administrative Assistant to the Athletic Department Sharon Forte, among others.

Local retired veterans acted as VIP greeters, offering fresh cider to the students as they waited on line to get their meal. On the menu was roasted turkey with pan gravy, homemade cream potatoes, classic bread stuffing, roasted beets, brussels sprouts and fennel, butternut squash and carrot mash with brown butter and white truffle oil, and homemade cranberry sauce. “Oh the kids eat their vegetables when they eat here,” said Martins. “We know how to cook vegetables the way they should be cooked.”

Martins said everyone looks forward to this meal every year. The only other time she remembered having a special meal like this was to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. For that, the food service staff whipped up a traditional English menu.

But this annual Thanksgiving at the Hills meal surpasses even that as a favorite among students and staff, Martins said. “It’s become a tradition at Watchung Hills,” Martins said. For dessert there was a choice of salted caramel apple crumb tart, or in honor of the Star Spangled Banner’s composer, Francis Scott Key Lime Pie.

Then students and teachers had to go back to class, and administrators and their staff had to go back to their offices to resume the school and work day.