Origin date: November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving is always an interesting holiday for our family. This year, for instance, we didn’t get together. My sister hung out with me and we had roast chicken while my mother made her rounds at friends houses.

See, for our family, holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas were more of an obligation rather than a tradition. My parents grew up in a very different culture with very different holidays. They came to America and were now faced with new, flashier, more expensive and less logical holidays. A lot of the time it was due to all of the stuff their American children were bringing home to them: hand prints made into turkeys covered with uncooked pasta, clay ornaments with red ribbons depicting a deer-like animal with a red nose. Clearly there were some expectations from us as kids that our parents were not prepared to address. It was particularly hard to explain to my parents how a fat man dressed in red fit down our chimney and why in the world he would want to give me toys. He didn’t even know me!

Luckily, Thanksgiving was a holiday my parents could wrap their minds around. Mainly because it involved lots of food, family and friends, which is a common theme in many Chinese holidays and celebrations. My mom got to learning what a traditional Thanksgiving dinner consisted of and decided, in typical fashion for my mother, that it was inadequate. She added some of her culinary masterpieces to the mix and made her own traditions for the holiday. Stir-fried noodles replaced mashed potatoes and gravy, Chinese broccoli was our green bean casserole, and my mother cooked her turkey with Asian spices, shredded carrots, shiitake mushrooms and cellophane noodles…. it was better than any other Thanksgiving dinner I had ever had or ever will have. *Eyes rolling back into head.*

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These are pictures of meals passed that my mother made. Which brings me to the reason for this post.

My mother recently told a story of one of her first Thanksgivings in this country. Why is this so significant? Well, because this is a story I had never heard before and it is a really amazing story.

My parents came here in the ’80’s and knew very little about American culture, food and holidays. During their 1st Thanksgiving in the U.S., a family friend gave my mother a turkey and told her to just put it in the oven and cook it for dinner. My mother gratefully accepted the bird, brought it back to the kitchen and just stared at it. They didn’t eat turkeys back home and she had never cooked one. She prepared it as best as she knew how and popped into the oven. Several minutes later she came back to a puddle gathering under her oven.

She immediately opened the oven to find it full of water. She ran upstairs to get a neighbor to ask for help. The neighbors upstairs were very kind to my parents and help them adjust to their new apartment. They were a Native American couple that would chat up my mom and dad and show them around the neighborhood. The husband came down stairs and took one look at the bird and shook his head. “Well, that turkey is still frozen,” he said to her. My mother looked him horrified. “Frozen?” she asked. He removed the bird from the oven and discarded it. He told her not to worry about it, she would definitely have something for dinner.

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He returned with a huge tray of all the typical Thanksgiving specialties. A generous portion of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pies and many more goodies. My mother was thrilled and greatly touched. We had our first real Thanksgiving meal provided to us by our gracious Native American neighbors. If that doesn’t strike a cord some where in the general region of your heart, you should go and get that checked out.

So, despite the fact we didn’t actually celebrate Thanksgiving together this year I still have a really good story to tell. Especially since it’s from someone that had never even heard of the the holiday and made it better, her way….

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