You ain’t seen stuffing yet

November 28, 2022

Thanksgiving is when families and friends gather to show their gratitude for each other. However, every family celebrates in unique ways, often beyond the stereotypical turkey and stuffing. Read on to learn about some of our student’s untraditional traditions.

Junior Kaleb Tham

Junior Kaleb Tham and his family rotate who hosts Thanksgiving each year. When his family hosts, they prepare hot pot alongside American foods. (Serena Liu)

Junior Kaleb Tham, who is Vietnamese with Chinese and Khmer heritage, celebrates Thanksgiving by being with his family. 

“Thanksgiving is like Christmas for me. I enjoy being with my family and the hiatus from schoolwork. It is one of the few times I can see my brother, who is now in college,” Tham said. “My family rotates who hosts Thanksgiving with my cousins. When we have it [at] our house, we usually prepare a hot pot with all our grandparents bringing various Asian foods to accommodate it.”

Hot pot is a style of cooking where the broth is kept simmering in a large pot, and raw foods are added over time. While extremely popular in Asia, where the style originated, hot pot has also spread globally.

“The hot pot includes a wide assortment of meats, vegetables and seafood. Seafood is a rather rare treat for me, so I enjoy that part of hot pot,” Tham said. “My aunt makes large flat rice noodles with sesame sauce, eggs, cilantro and carrots mixed in it.”

Along with Vietnamese and Chinese dishes, Tham also enjoys some American Thanksgiving foods. 

“Our cousins, on the other hand, are half American, and we have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all of our grandparents on both sides,” Tham said. “My lactose intolerance prevents me from consuming a lot of American things, including mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. The ham is delicious, though.”

Junior Naira Ali

Junior Naira Ali enjoys American and Kashmiri foods at her Thanksgiving dinner. One of her favorite dishes is Kashmiri-style paneer. (Serena Liu)

Along with enjoying cultural foods on Thanksgiving, junior Naira Ali and her family serve unique takes on classic American dishes.

“My family gets regular Thanksgiving foods, but we also keep cultural food on the table. My favorite dish is Kashmiri-style paneer. We also change up the mashed potatoes and make spicy mashed potatoes, which is my favorite,” junior Naira Ali said.

Paneer is a south Asian cheese dish often served with strong sauces, spices and broths. Ali, whose family is from the Kashmir region, combined her culture and American culture to forge new traditions and recipes.  

“The importance of Thanksgiving to me is spending time with my family. It makes me happy to embrace my culture while at the same time still celebrating different holidays,” Ali said.

Junior Suraiya Saroar

Junior Suraiya Saroar enjoys both American and Bangladeshi traditions on Thanksgiving. For dessert, she has pumpkin pie and mishti, a broad category of sweets from south Asia. (Serena Liu)

On Thanksgiving, junior Suraiya Saroar and her family balance their Bangladeshi heritage with their new American traditions. 

“The day before Thanksgiving, we go to a farm and get live turkeys. Thanksgiving morning, we’ll stand around and watch my dad or uncle kill it. After that, we skin the turkey and cook it,” junior Suraiya Saroar said. “We cook one a Desi way, in a stew like a curry. We do the other one [like] the traditional American Thanksgiving type of turkey.”

For dessert, Saroar typically has mishti, which translates to “sweets” in Bangla. Mishti is often made of a dairy base, sweeteners like jaggery or sugar, and flavoring. There are hundreds of types of mishti from Saroar’s country of origin, Bangladesh. 

“For Bangladeshi people, mishti can mean different types of little desserts. One of them that my mom usually makes around Thanksgiving time is this white [dish] with a milk base,” Saroar said. “I’m always advocating for us to get a pumpkin pie, and that’s what my brother and I usually have as well as mishti.”

Since immigrating to the United States at 5 years old, Saroar has enjoyed spending time with her family on Thanksgiving.

“In Bangladesh, we don’t have Thanksgiving, so it was interesting when me and my family moved to America and adopted this tradition. We eat a lot of untraditional Thanksgiving foods, and we don’t see Thanksgiving as its holiday. We see it as a time for all of our family to be able to come together,” Saroar said. “Especially around this time of the year, my parents constantly work, and I either work or have other activities. Thanksgiving is a nice time for all of us to spend time together and help cook and clean the house.”

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  • T

    Tanvi KulkarniNov 30, 2022 at 2:28 pm

    Great story Serena!

  • B

    Brinda AmbalNov 28, 2022 at 10:03 pm

    cool story, these illustrations are so cute!!