A Twist on Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving approaches, I always like to reflect on the Thanksgiving celebrations I have had in the past. People tend to associate Thanksgiving with Turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce and other traditional foods. And while most Thanksgivings my family does eat this, one celebration was very different.

One year, celebrating Thanksgiving at my uncle’s house in New Jersey, everything was going the way it normally does. My family had played a football game in his backyard like we always do, because everyone knows it isn’t Thanksgiving without a little football. After embarrassing some of the older cousins and uncles by just outrunning them, we had to wash up for dinner. But when we went inside, I was confused. There was no turkey sitting in the middle of the table with sides surrounding it, instead it was a buffet…of Asian food.

I was around 12 and I had never had a Thanksgiving without turkey, so this came a surprise. I mean I love Asian cuisine, but I wasn’t expecting to see it on the dinner table at this holiday. There was bok choy, shrimp, lobster, a Shanghai-nese rice cake dish called nian go, Korean short ribs, and Asian fried chicken, very untraditional foods. Of course I ate it without complaining, but it came as a shock to me. My grandma did most of the cooking for the event and I guess she gave us her version of Thanksgiving dinner. We are an Asian-American family and it is only right that our culture is reflected, even on an American holiday.

Chinese Nian Go
Credits to Wikipedia

People always emphasize the turkey on Thanksgiving. There are the turkey floats in the parade and sometimes Thanksgiving is even called Turkey day, but Thanksgiving isn’t about that. The food you eat doesn’t matter, as long as it with shared with people you are thankful for. It is a family holiday and should be about that, spending time with family and giving thanks for what you have. I learned a lot that Thanksgiving, and I think my family did too. Some of them were just as surprised, if not disappointed that there was no turkey, but it was still an amazing meal. After that Thanksgiving, our dinners are now always mixed, with some Asian elements to go along with the turkey.

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3 Responses to A Twist on Thanksgiving

  1. isabelzhao says:

    I agree with the idea that Thanksgiving isn’t about the food you prepare and eat, but it’s about being with the people you are grateful for and care for. Similarly to your experience, I’ve had a Thanksgiving dinner with a table full of Asian dishes. We had a large turkey placed on the center of the table but instead of the traditional mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and pie, we had dishes very similar to the ones you had. Regardless of what there was to eat, I will still incredibly full after dinner and most importantly, the magnitude of how thankful I was for all my family and friends was the same, if not more.

  2. wesleyyun says:

    I also agree with your idea that Thanksgiving should be about the time you spend with your family. It is a time when we should be grateful for what we have. I have a Thanksgiving that is a hybrid of Chinese food and typical Thanksgiving food. I always have a turkey, ham, and stuffing but they are always surrounded with noodles, fried rice, chicken, and dumplings. Although the food is not common, I always enjoy the company that my family brings no matter what we eat and the plus side is that I can enjoy all types of food at the same time.

  3. Rishi Ajmera says:

    This piece really shows the power that food can have in helping open people’s cultural expectations. A little act of just Chinese food on the table led you to discover an amazing revelation and helped you understand the importance of appreciating your heritage and family on days like Thanksgiving. I guess the holiday really does help you realize what you’re thankful for!

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