Why You Should Eat a Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner | Opinion

One Thanksgiving, I went to a friend’s house for the turkey feast. The smell of freshly baked bread wafted through the dining room and a dozen or so beautifully made garnishes were laid out on the table, but one caught my eye.

It wasn’t the turkey, but a different dish, one topped with cornflakes and melted cheddar. As we sat down to dinner, I knew right away what I was looking at: funeral potatoes.

Yeah, we were eating funeral potatoes for Thanksgiving.

The family explained to me that they not only included the classic Latter-day Saint and Utah in their meal, but also served moon cakes and scallion pancakes, a tribute to their Japanese heritage. My friend’s mother had this idea when she was first married: Thanksgiving would not only include traditional food; she prepared food that reminded him of her home and also of the place where her family now lived.

Listening to my friend’s mother talk about her multicultural background and how it influenced the look of her table, I was intrigued. How are families incorporating different age-old traditions into this holiday that, while celebrated in other countries, has a distinctly American flavor?

I came across the traditions of Sarai Monterroso, from South Carolina, who told the Greenville News that she gets up at 6 am to prepare the party for her family. While she roasts a turkey, Monterroso foregoes the traditional sides and includes Mexican rice, salsa verde, and potato salad. For dessert, she prepares two types of flan, tres leches cake and pineapple cake.

Monterosso said through a translator: “I thought it’s a beautiful thing to dedicate this day to a time for people to come together to give thanks.”

Nathalie Etienne said on Black Foodie: “Like many other American families, our family celebrates Thanksgiving by preparing the staples, albeit with a Haitian twist. In my home, turkey, ham, and vegetables are guaranteed to be served, but there are a few other items my brothers and sisters just can’t do without.” Etienne listed five dishes he has at Thanksgiving, including fritay: anything fried, like turkey, yucca, or plantains. About Friday, she said: “I can’t imagine a Haitian Thanksgiving without it!”

For these families and others, Thanksgiving takes on a multicultural tone. Along with traditional turkey and stuffing, families enjoy foods that remind them of family, home, or ancestors. In some ways, this version of Thanksgiving best represents what America is all about: a country firmly rooted in pluralism and diversity.

Interfaith America founder and CEO Eboo Patel uses the metaphor of America as a nation of potlucks rather than a melting pot. He writes: “Potlucks respect diverse identities by enthusiastically receiving gifts from the people you gather. They facilitate relationships between people by creating a space to eat and socialize and surprise connections. And they cultivate in people the importance not only of the individual parts and the connections between them, but of the health of the whole.”

Patel’s metaphor sums up what happens at Thanksgiving tables across the country. While some stick to “traditional” dishes, others deviate and reinvent the holiday for their family. And if we think about it, “traditional” dishes are not authentically traditional either. At the first Thanksgiving meal, there were no pies, and turkey may not have been on the menu either. Unless you’re eating venison and corn on Thanksgiving, you’re probably not eating what the Pilgrims and Native Americans ate.

The concept of what Thanksgiving is today developed over time, just as each family develops its own unique understanding and expression of the holiday. I have fond memories of my late grandfather expressing his gratitude for our family and our lives at the beginning of the Thanksgiving meal: it was a fond tradition, one that many families have, but it was also unique in that we did it that way.

There’s something beautiful about that juxtaposition: the ubiquity of gratitude with the diversity of cuisine on our plates. Imagine if we were to take that perspective and expand it to all areas of our lives. Where we saw diversity, imagine if we saw it as creating unity instead of division. As Elder Quentin L. Cook said: “Unity and diversity are not opposites. We can achieve greater unity as we foster an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for diversity.”

But right now Americans feel more divided than ever.

There’s no shortage of discord in our homes and in our communities, but there’s still something about the festivities that changes the atmosphere, if only a little. Maybe it’s because we remember that our neighbor, whom we see as our enemy, is really just our neighbor. Or maybe it’s because we remember that the holidays are a time to invite people in and not just find ways to keep them out.

Whatever the reason, Thanksgiving and the holidays remind us that we’re not all that different from one another, and as we eat in our homes across the country, we’re united by our sense of gratitude and caring (or tolerance). ) some dry turkey.

This year, along with the turkey, stuffing, and cornbread, I’m serving a serving of funeral potatoes. I know it’s cheesy, but this Utah classic means something to me: it reminds me of the industriousness and resourcefulness of Utahns.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll make a serving of any food that has special meaning to you, too.

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