When it Comes to Thanksgiving, Stick to the Classics
As you and your family members each lug a serving dish filled with deliciousness to the dining table, and arrange them in picture-perfect fashion, you see it out of the corner of your eye; the odd one out: a plate of Korean BBQ amidst the legendary American Thanksgiving feast consisting of turkey, ham, stuffing, and a plethora of other side dishes–both savory and sweet. Immediately, the sense of disharmony stops you in your tracks. On one hand, it’s one of your favorite dishes, on the other, it’s Thanksgiving Day, so what in the world is that dish doing here?
For Americans who grew up immersed in two or more cultures, it’s extremely rare to have a meal that is fully monocultural, from either side. As a Korean-American, I eat some type of American food every day. I also eat some type of Korean food every day. I’ve gotten used to this mix of dishes over the past 16 years, but it doesn’t mean that I necessarily like this cultural clash when it comes to food.
On any other day of the year, you can enjoy your favorite multicultural dishes. For my family, that means Asian (usually Korean) dishes typically decorate our dinner table. Thanksgiving is the only break I get from this year-round multicultural culinary experience. Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate how hard my mom works to prepare these dishes, and I love almost all of these dishes. But they have no place at the Thanksgiving table.
Thanksgiving Day should first and foremost be a Thanksgiving meal. There are 364 other days in the year for you to enjoy your favorite multicultural dishes, so why taint Thanksgiving with them? Junior Jenna Garcia agrees, “I believe that keeping with a traditional variety of food for thanksgiving is my personal choice because we already do so many culturally inspired festivities, keeping with a tradition gives us something that we can enjoy every year with our families.” Just for one day, let’s enjoy the classic ham and/or turkey, buttery mashed potatoes, savory stuffing, and green bean casserole. Sophomore Abby Santos adds, “I think that the traditional side is the better side when it comes to Thanksgiving. I feel like Thanksgiving is all about family so I think that keeping the traditional family recipes is important,” she states.
Plus, when you either completely remove traditional Thanksgiving dishes or have a mix of traditional and multicultural, it ruins the spirit of the holiday. Imagine having a Christmas party and watching a horror movie instead of a Christmas movie? It’s the same concept. For such a food-centric holiday, bringing non-traditional dishes from cultures outside of American is a contamination. Junior Chelsea Ugwuozor expresses, “Personally, I really enjoy doing traditions/activities that put me in the holiday spirit. Food is one of the biggest parts of Thanksgiving, so traditional dishes are a must-have”; Thanksgiving simply isn’t Thanksgiving without the inclusion of traditional foods in the feast.
We don’t need the stress of culinary fusion on top of all of the Thanksgiving day stress, but whether you have a multicultural Thanksgiving spread, a completely non-American feast on Thanksgiving Day, or a completely traditional Thanksgiving with all the delicious classics, make sure you fill up– and save room for leftovers!
Thanksgiving: Your Own Taste
The oven timer dings, sending both you and your growing hunger jumping up to follow the smell that lures your nose in. Combined with the cool weather, soft breezes, and the gratitude in the air of Thanksgiving Day, the smell of your dinner is only further proof of how perfect the day is. As you excitedly make your way out of your bedroom and into the decorated dining room, you wonder what home-cooked meal awaits you on the dinner table. But in place of the usual warm-colored placemats and fall-themed centerpieces, there’s a new sight to see: numerous piles of Filipino food sit organized on top of banana leaves, as if they were a canvas. In the middle of the feast: a roasted pig.
For other cultures, the meal might be entirely different. Some at least add their own touch to the common baked turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie, and so on. The point is, why have a plain Thanksgiving when you have the opportunity to spice it up?
As a Filipino-American, taking on the country’s normal practices is an everyday thing for me, but I also find true value in it. For most of my meals, I’m given a taste of the Philippines, or a taste of home. Sure, eating Filipino food everyday can get tiring and maybe even boring, and a conventional Thanksgiving dinner can provide you a break from it. But when it comes to a holiday like this, the traditions are special enough to deliver a new feeling of excitement.
For one thing, Filipino boodle fights, in which we don’t use any utensils or dishes but eat with our hands on banana leaves, is unique in its own sense. Sophomore Orion Taleon loves this practice, expressing how he enjoys “the strong sense of family and community you get when you are all eating from the same ‘plate’”. This adds to the feeling of thanks already surrounding the day, creating a touch of intimacy that wasn’t there before.
Orion’s sister, freshman Orwen Taleon, expands on this, saying that “The way of eating it is a fun experience, and the Filipino food is delicious.” With foods like lechon, sopas, lumpia, adobo, leche flan, and so much more tacked on to the regular American dishes, it is truly a celebration like no other.
Food is a preference, but when it comes down to culture, it’s not something you can just put aside for one day. As tired of it as you can get some days, it’s a significant personal experience being able to emphasize your culture on holidays like Thanksgiving. As sophomore Gabriella Tolentino puts it, “I find it important to incorporate our culture into this holiday because I feel it adds a more familiar feel, making it more comfortable for all of us to celebrate it.”
Lots of us celebrate this day of thanks with the same general routine, from the traditions we participate in to the meals we eat. This year, in honor of new experiences, add some flavor to the holiday and spice up your Thanksgiving!