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Running and Holiday Traditions

Andy Jones-Wilkins reflects on a Thanksgiving ritual, and how it has become a part of his life in the same way as running has.

By on November 24, 2023 | Comments

AJW's TaproomJust about 33 years ago, for Christmas in 1990, I gave my wife Shelly “The Greens Cookbook” — a 300-page masterpiece with over 250 recipes from the legendary San Francisco, California, vegetarian establishment Greens Restaurant. The following November, as we were preparing to host a small group for Thanksgiving, I was skimming through the book when I came upon a recipe for wild mushroom ragout. I thought, What if we made that as part of our Thanksgiving dinner?

We lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the time and were frequent shoppers at the Weavers Way Co-op, a wonderful, little place filled with delicious organic produce and other hard-to-find ingredients. In the corner of the produce section, there was a massive selection of wild mushrooms. And so it was that I found myself there on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 1991, filling a brown paper bag with chanterelles, portobellos, creminis, shiitakes, porcinis, and morels.

AJW - inscription on cook book

AJW’s note to his wife on “The Greens Cookbook,” December 1990. Photo: Andy Jones-Wilkins

The recipe itself takes a full two days to prepare as on the first day you make the stock — a delicious and savory broth fashioned from garlic, onions, carrots, celery, herbs, and a healthy supply of wild mushrooms, both dry and fresh. On Thanksgiving morning, the ragout is prepared.

In two batches, and on very high heat, the mushrooms are blended together and sautéed with red wine, a rich blend of herbs and spices, and the aforementioned stock. At mealtime the ragout is served — alongside the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes — and essentially takes the place of a more traditional gravy.

For every Thanksgiving since that first time in 1991 we have prepared wild mushroom ragout. Wherever we were living and whoever was coming over, we have never failed to produce this family favorite. Each time we make it, it is slightly different and slightly better, in my opinion. It is a consistent staple of our Thanksgiving table — once a year, every year.

This year as I was preparing the ragout for our Thanksgiving feast, I found myself reflecting about the way this special dish has become a part of my life, much like running has. It just so happens that around the same time that I discovered the ragout I discovered running.

Over the years, running has become an extremely important part of my life and something that has become an essential part of who I am. And, much like the ragout, my running has morphed and evolved over the years — each time getting a little bit richer and a little bit better.

AJW - 2016 Hardrock 100

The author running the 2016 Hardrock 100. Photo: iRunFar

Over the course of our lives, we never really know for sure when something might come along and become embedded in who we are. For me, oddly enough, wild mushroom ragout and long-distance running are two such things.

On this Thanksgiving, after a long and challenging year, I am deeply grateful that the universe has made these things available to me. One that I endeavor to do every day, and the other that I stop everything to do once a year. Both things, in their own unique ways, are a big part of the recipe of who I am, and that gives me great joy.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Evil Genius Beer Company logoThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Evil Genius Brewing Company on Front Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Known locally for their offbeat, creative beers, one of my favorites from Evil Genius is called Purple Monkey Dishwasher, a chocolate peanut butter porter that might just be the perfect dessert beer. Weighing in at 6.7% it is less boozy than some porters and quite a mouthful, literally and figuratively.

Call for Comments

  • Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions that have become important to you?
  • How does running fit in with your usual holiday plans?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.