Thanksgiving at PIFS – Not Your Ordinary School Lunch

Thanksgiving at PIFS – Not Your Ordinary School Lunch


Parents walking their children through the door of the Putnam Indian Field School on the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving always pause and ask, “What smells so good? Smells like Thanksgiving!” And so it does, thanks to Nolda Joseph, longtime kitchen manager and cook. Along with her co-worker, Alba Jaramillo, Nolda prepares lunch for the children and staff of PIFS every day. In recent years, her job has been complicated by the school’s switch to organic and non-GMO foods, but she has risen to the challenge of finding healthier options for her lunch program.

Nolda (left) and Alba (right)

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving is Nolda’s day to shine and to show her love for the children and staff who inhabit the school with her every day. On that morning, she arrives at school at 5:00 AM (!!) in order to start the prep for her full Thanksgiving feast, which, by the way, she has been planning for weeks. 

Nolda’s feast lures past staff members back to enjoy her old favorites and taste the new dishes she has developed. Fred Wierdsma, the school’s founder and first Headmaster, returns to carve the turkeys each year (two 15 pounders). Parents bringing their children to lunch often find themselves sitting with them and sneaking a few bites. Then they go into the kitchen to ask Nolda for her recipes, and she reveals them all. 

Nolda and Fred wrestle with the turkey!

A little background: Nolda came to the US with her late husband Sydney and son Justin, from Antigua, where she had been a teacher. She worked in Greenwich as a nanny for a family that had 3 little girls, all of whom attended PIFS. When the girls grew old enough to be in school all day, Nolda accepted the job of running the kitchen at PIFS. That was almost 30 years ago, and everyday she brings dedication, a great work ethic and yes, love to the job of feeding her children and teachers. 

Preparing lunch for the children

Nolda is a grandmother now – by blood to Justin and his wife Rachelle’s adorable young son, Malik – and by a love connection to the children of those 3 little girls she cared for and who still count her as family. On school vacations, she travels to the West Coast and Bermuda to visit her extended family. The Thanksgiving feast is an expression of love for her other extended family at Putnam Indian Field School. And everything was absolutely delicious!