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Ethnic Thanksgiving


mamster
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I've long looked for alternatives to the traditional American Thanksgiving spread, which I find not to my taste (although sometimes I can put away a large amount of stuffing). Last year Laurie, who is of part Cornish extraction, and I, who am not, made Cornish pasties for Thanksgiving, and they were delicious, festive, and overly filling -- everything Thanksgiving food should be.

How has your ethnic background influenced your Thanksgiving feast? If you're Chinese-American (or, hey, even if you're not) and serve a big plate of potstickers along with your turkey, let's hear about it. Or, for that matter, if you don't consider yourself particularly ethnic but have your own nontraditional Thanksgiving tradition (like Calvin Trillin and his spaghetti carbonara), that's cool too.

Hmm, those pasties were good, but now I'm thinking about potstickers. I guess that's not unusual.

Disclosure: I'm writing an article on this topic, not for eGullet, and may well PM you for more info. I will, of course, post a link to the article when it's up.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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This may not help you wrt the article, because the influence was not due to ancestry or personal traditions per say.

A few of us visited a friend in New Mexico and decided to make the following:

margaritas

guacamole and chips

Tortilla soup

Home-made Red Mole with Turkey Breast

Sweet Potatoes glazed with chile, lime and brown sugar

Mexcian Rice

Cooked Chard

Lemon Sorbet w/Vodka and Pomegranates

Apple Fritters with Cajeta Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

It was a great dinner and the first and only time so far that I didn't cook a "traditional" Thanksgiving Day dinner. Since turkey mole is a big Hispanic feast food I wouldn't be surprised if it shows up in some houses though...

Now that I think about it though.. there was one dish in my Mom's thanskgiving day dinner that was based on ethnic roots--Austrian.

My mom makes a simple turkey broth soup with the giblets, wing tips, etc. She garnishes it with a common Austrian soup garnish:

"frittaten"

These are plain savory crepes that are sliced up into strips and added to the soup. Tastes great!

Will be fun to hear other stories...

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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It never occurred to me that the family's jewish roots are evident in our Thanksgiving meal, but it is.

It doesn't matter who in the family is hosting the feast, but there's always an abundance of chopped liver set out as part of the pre-meal snacks. Additionally, you'll always see brisket offered in addition to turkey as a main course. Finally, there are noodle kugels as side dishes.

We really don't do the traditional dishes such as brussel sprouts or pumpkin pie. And no pecan pie ever graced the dessert spread until I contributed one in 1996.

Edited by bloviatrix (log)

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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It's the only time I can get the immediate family down from the ancestral homes in Travis and Bastrop counties. And I never miss the chance to show off the degree to which my father's adventurous sojourns into pre-fad Asian eats influenced my diet and my style. A big old black drum with the fillets and body did up in three different sauces is the usual centerpiece.

Czech cuisine is really boring, see. There's a reason why all our ancestors came here from wherever they came from.

Nam Pla moogle; Please no MacDougall! Always with the frugal...

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Our family usually does the traditional Thanksgiving, but I remember while in High School visiting friends of Italian decent (1/2 of my town is Italian-American). Their tables were usually filled with Italian foods (antipasta, lasagna, manicotti, escarole, braciole, eggplant parm, shrimp scampi, Italian cheescake...) the tukey and pumpkin pie were only on they table because they felt they had to have them because it was Thanksgiving.

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Ahhh. Our Thanksgiving table looks like this, and has for as long as I can remember:

Gargantuan roasted turkey with sage dressing

Ham

Kimchi

Mashed potatoes with boatloads of butter and milk

Jap Chae (glass noodles with meat and veggies; a traditional Korean celebration food)

Gravy out of a can, thickened with drippings if we're lucky

Pickled raw blue crab

Sweet potato/marshmallow travesty-of-a-casserole thing

Sesame oil-marinated spinach

Cranberry sauce

More kimchi

Green bean casserole with French's onion things

Various other banchan - Korean pickles and side dishes

Creamed corn

For dessert:

Store-bought pumpkin pie and sujongwa, a sweet Korean punch of cinnamon and pine nuts.

Isn't this what everyone has for Thanksgiving? :huh::laugh:

Edited by eunny jang (log)
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What, no mandoo-gui?

And am I the only one in the world that likes the sweet potato casserole with pineapple and topped with marshmallows? It's good. Dammit. And the French's green bean casserole, that must be made with canned soup, etc. I've tried making it from scratch, no one liked it as well.

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My Cubano side comes out every Thanksgiving when I make a Pumpkin Flan for dessert instead of Pumpkin Pie. Less filling but the same flavor profile.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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After reading Calvin Trillin's piece about how Spaghetti Carbonara should REALLY be the traditional T'day feast, we decided to take advantage of our proximity to Li'l It'ly and include proscuitto bread. Then once I started getting interested in Latin American and Native American foods, I added succotash made with corn, beans, and squash (actually, chayote), plus jerusalem artichokes.

What do these have to do with my own "ethnic" background? Absolutely nothing. :biggrin: I'm from Middle-to-Eastern-European Jewish ancestry. My only concession to that has been to use kosher turkeys, including kosher smoked turkey in the succotash. And when I started using Asian ingredients AND had a guest who keeps kosher, I made my mashed sweet potatoes with coconut milk instead of butter/cream. I just think it is so much more fun -- and more emblematic of what T'day should be about -- to use everyone else's foodstuffs!

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My only concession to that has been to use kosher turkeys, including kosher smoked turkey in the succotash. And when I started using Asian ingredients AND had a guest who keeps kosher, I made my mashed sweet potatoes with coconut milk instead of butter/cream. I just think it is so much more fun -- and more emblematic of what T'day should be about -- to use everyone else's foodstuffs!

Wow! Ummmm, may I invite myself over for Thanksgiving dinner? :wub:

Edited by spaghetttti (log)

Yetty CintaS

I am spaghetttti

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My mom keeps completely "American traditional" with our Thanksgiving dinner, but my aunt always makes the traditional Bohemian family dish Pork Roast and Sauerkraut :wub: in addition to the turkey and all the trimmings for her Thanksgiving dinner.

It's like having dinner with dinner. :laugh:

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I have a large and multiethnic family, now scattered around the country, but for past Thanksgivings when we all lived in Chicago, we usually stuck with the all-American basics (yup -- that canned green bean cassserole), with perhaps my mom's egg rolls (she's Japanese but loves Chinese food), my sister's arroz con gandules (her husband is Puerto Rican), and my Polish sister-in-law's sausage with sauerkraut. If I visited my father's home, we would always have spaghetti made by my Italian-Filipina stepmother. The one requirement for both factions was turkey with sage dressing, from my Virginia granny's recipe.

For the past couple of years, I've attended a harvest feast hosted by Native American friends. It is potluck, but there are a few required foods: something from the four-legged ones (venison), the finned ones (salmon), and the winged ones (turkey); wild rice (manoomin); and corn bread (bannock).

"It is a fact that he once made a tray of spanakopita using Pam rather than melted butter. Still, though, at least he tries." -- David Sedaris
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i've always considered thanksgiving to be the true test of the US as a melting pot. growing up, we always had 'strays' and the one price of entry was that every guest brought something. for years family a couple of family friends who had more than a passing interest in hard alcohol would attend - they would often make peanut soup (with whisky), rum balls (in more than name only...we never knew how they even stayed together), jalepeno cornbread (with gin?)...in one way or another, each guest would contribute something important to them - regionally or historically.

a southern friend might bring bourbon pecan pie (hmm, a different person...but i'm understanding more about my habits...)

my brother-in-law's entry to the family introduced us to green bean casserole. i loathe it. (except for the onions, of course) but it's essential to him, so we have it.

before we were old enough to protest my mother made oyster stuffing (very regionally popular in DC/MD).

when i moved out west, i started hosting my own thanksgiving celebrations. i often make salmon, use dried cherries and nuts more than i would back east and my guests bring different dishes than i'm used to which changes the table...corn pudding instead of sweet potatoes, no relish tray :shock: and desserts seem to be generally more fruit focused (pear tart, apple pie) than usual.

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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Each time there are guests invited to my Thanksgiving table, I ask in advance, "Is there some food it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without?" Then I include that dish in my menu.

Because I'm a Midwesterner who lived in the South for over 30 years, many of my guests have been Southerners, and I have been a guest at their tables. Their traditional foods have included deviled eggs, creamed onions, macaroni-and-cheese and desserts involving coconut: ambrosia, coconut cake and coconut custard pie. Italian friends have requested a pasta dish like lasagne and a soup, escarole if I remember rightly (and her father requested a steak since he didn't eat poultry).

On one side I'm ninth generation American, long enough for any traces of Scotch-Irish and English food to disappear, and my German grandparent's sauerkraut and potato pancakes never made it to the holiday table. There's always, ALWAYS turkey, dressing, scalloped oysters, a sweet potato-praline casserole or carrot pudding, asparagus casserole, my sister-in-law's "find" of a wonderful cranberry salad, soft rolls, black olives, and pumpkin and pecan pies. Sometimes there's mashed potatoes, fresh green beans or green bean casserole. There's apple pie if my son's in attendance, and misc. pies, cheesecakes and other desserts may be added.

I've seen the Thanksgiving table change through the generations as old dishes disappear and new ones are introduced. The mince pie of my grandparents is gone, as well as the relish dish and jello "salads"--one year alone there were SEVEN--of my parents. My grown kids don't like scalloped oysters (my "must have" item) and the asparagus will probably disappear when I do.

There is one dish that appears on our family table that I've never seen anywhere else except on the table of the lady who gave the "recipe" to my mother. It's really just an idea: put an 8 ounce block of cream cheese through a potato ricer into a pretty glass dish. Top with most of a jar of whole sour cherry preserves. I suppose you could put it on your dinner rolls, but we always eat with a fork from the salad plate along with the cranberries. We call it...ahem...Cream Cheese and Cherries.

Oh, yes. The girl who requested deviled eggs? She's now my daughter-in-law, so it looks like we have a new tradition.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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i've always considered thanksgiving to be the true test of the US as a melting pot. growing up, we always had 'strays' and the one price of entry was that every guest brought something. for years family a couple of family friends who had more than a passing interest in hard alcohol would attend - they would often make peanut soup (with whisky), rum balls (in more than name only...we never knew how they even stayed together), jalepeno cornbread (with gin?)...in one way or another, each guest would contribute something important to them - regionally or historically.

a southern friend might bring bourbon pecan pie (hmm, a different person...but i'm understanding more about my habits...)

. . .

Ah. That reminds me of a T'day dinner I attended while visiting classmates on their work terms in Boston during my second year of college (one of 2 dinners I attended -- and ate -- that day in 1967): every single dish contained, uh, cannabis sativa :blush::wacko: The dressing, the salad, the "tea" we drank, probably even the green bean casserole. :rolleyes: Had I been able to cook, I might have contributed Alice B. Toklas's Fruit and Nut Balls (aka Brownies). Those were the days. :blink:

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I'm not a native New Mexican but the sabor of the land of Enchantment has crept into my holiday traditions, including: Turkey with black mole (the recipe is from Freida and Diego's wedding), Cornbread stuffing with green chile and pinon, calabasitas and pecan pie with a touch of Chimayo red chile to cut the sweet.

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As a Mexican-SouthAmerican, the whole American Thanksgiving dinner is "ethnic" to me, so we have everything that is "traditional" American and nothing from my varied backgrounds, this is what makes it special...!

Just a different point of view... :wink:

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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As a Mexican-SouthAmerican, the whole American Thanksgiving dinner is "ethnic" to me, so we have everything that is "traditional" American and nothing from my varied backgrounds, this is what makes it special...!

Just a different point of view... :wink:

I love that response! Beautiful...

But you seem to have taken the New World back to the Old ...for there you are, writing from Merrie Olde England.

Will you be spending Thanksgiving there? If so,will it affect the foods you serve in any way at all due to lack of certain ingredients or substitutions of other ingredients in any baked goods you buy that would alter the 'usual' way you would do it at home?

And I am also very curious to know your own specific menu...I am sure it will be seasoned differently from, say, the New England or Southeastern Thanksgiving dinner...

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We serve the traditional thanksgiving with a twist. We have turkey but it usually has a soy/orange/honey/ginger glaze. Add a few filipino accompaniments: maybe lumpia or pancit and always rice. But we like stuffing with chestnuts, too so we add that to our table. Maybe some corn. Some variety of mashed potato and sweet potato (last year we has some with a maple syrup/vanilla glaze – yum!). Rolls. Cranberry sauce with mandarins and walnuts. My son has to have some of the soggy institutional canned green beans. Pecan pie. Pumkin pie. Leche Flan. Lately, we have been celebrating thanksgiving with my sisters family-in-laws and they have some vegetarians and they will usually bring something for themselves. Always, we have a big pot of mulled apple cider which is wonderful on a crisp autumn day.

N.

"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali
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Does changing the day one celebrates Thanksgiving count as making it an "ethnic" holiday?

My mother always made Thanksgiving dinner on Friday night, rather than on the regular Thursday night of Thanksgiving weekend. Her logic: why should she make a big dinner on Thursday and then have to do it all again on Friday for Shabbos?

So it was always a truly Jewish Thanksgiving. It included a combination of the usual foods for each day: turkey and turkey soup (mit lukshen); chopped liver (chicken livers, which we would get from the chicken lady across the street, don't ask, please); I'd like to say we had a "corn dish," and I guess we did, but in truth it was always canned corn niblets (which I liked, and still like to this day); mashed potatoes, because no meal is complete without them; and other stuff I can't remember right now. This embarrassed me during adolescence, I thought it was too weird. Now I like it, and I have a couple of friends who actually decided to do the same thing (albeit with different foods).

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. . . chopped liver (chicken livers, which we would get from the chicken lady across the street, don't ask, please); . . .

Oh, come on, you KNOW that's an invitation to ask. :raz: If not here, then on some other board, but do tell us what that's all about, pretty please????? :unsure:

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While in grad school, there were 2 or 3 thanksgivings that were comprised of all the standard american thanksgiving foods (turkey, potatoes, yams, stuffing ...) and a full complement of Thai and Vietnamese dishes. The combination of the two cuisines was so strangely perfect. All those heavy, starchy american foods were all the better for having small courses of pho and curry between them to wake us back up.

Admittedly, this isn't quite on topic. This wasn't my family's ethnic background influencing Thanksgiving meals. But, it is now my idea of what a perfect Thanksgiving meal should be - a mix of the good from the traditional American repetoire and some brighter, spicier elements to act as a complement.

Robin Tyler McWaters

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Thanks for all the great replies, folks--I've already PMed some of you.

crouching tyler, I agree with your assessment that the American meal needs some brightening up with some international influence. In fact, now that I think about it, a couple of years ago I brought potsticker filling and wrappers to my parents' house, and everyone helped make the potstickers, which I then cooked. One of the people there was a semi-vegetarian friend of my brothers' who hadn't had pork in years but ate at least a dozen potstickers. Wouldn't you?

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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An American married to a Brazilian, we have modified traditional Thanksgiving.

To honor his love of churrasco (Portuguese for Brazilian bbq) he likes to grill the turkey on our gas grill. It's also the 'project of the day' since he doesn't like to watch American football and can't fathom how one passes the day watching parades.... :biggrin:

He didn't care for stuffing, so we substitute that with farofa

For those who are curious: toasted manioc meal, farinha de mandioca. Simple recipe is: 4 tablespoons of butter, 3 cups manioc flour, Salt to taste. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet. Add manioc meal and cook over low heat stirring constantly until golden. Sprinkle with salt, to taste. Serve in a small ceramic bowl.

I also do the French fried onion green bean soup casserole :laugh:

mashed garlic potatoes (he didn't care for the sweet marshmellow potatoes)

corn on the cob roasted on the grill with the turkey.

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