My Big Fat American Thanksgiving

posted in: Ruminations | 14


Hopefully many people reading this blog who don’t know me personally will have sensed that my culinary tastes are quite various and international in scope. But what I haven’t disclosed for this long and would feel irresponsible about withholding at this moment, is the fact that every Thanksgiving dinner I’ve attended has served the same traditional, no-nonsense all-American spread favored by the senior Erway clan of upstate New York.

That means, essentially, cranberry sauce straight from the can, can’t-change-the-recipe bread stuffing with celery, onions, and dates, mashed potatoes, a vegetable dish, and none too many desserts. If I do venture out of this box and make something different, such as roasted root vegetables, they’re usually left untouched by the majority of the big fat American family members (figuratively speaking). Which leads me to the conclusion that the majority of Americans, like my extended Erway family, are not New Yorkers, and for the most part do not deign to try unusual foods. Though I’m not sure what good that realization does me.

Care for a blueberry, apple, pumpkin, pecan, or cranberry-apple pie?

Veg. and taters


I do highly recommend brining the turkey the night before cooking it, which we adopted a couple years ago. This is achieved with a mixture of sugar and salt (about two cups each for a 20-lb bird), and a large bucket of cold water to cover the bird completely for the night.

My favorite Thanksgiving dish: boiled turkey neck and gizzard sprinkled with salt. I know–it looks gross–but that neck is so tender and falling off the bone. My mom boils this every morning after the turkey goes in the oven. (Could this be our one Chinese contribution to the meal?)

Roasted Root Vegetable Medley

I was going to post a recipe for this, but there’s not much of one to write. It’s basically a mixture of yams, turnips, parsnips, and carrots coarsley chopped down to about the same thickness, doused with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes, turning once in the middle of cooking. When they’re done, I toss them with freshly chopped herbs such as rosemary or parsley. Proportions don’t matter here at all. Sure to fix those crunchy, soft, sweet, bitter, and salty cravings all at once.

14 Responses

  1. Kalyn

    I did laugh because last year when I was suggesting things I might bring for a Thanksgiving vegetable, my sister said in a terrified voice, “Don’t try out anything new on us!” So of course I took the same broccoli with cheese sauce that we’ve had for the last 20 years!

  2. Yvo

    Funny… as a kid I wanted nothing more than to have “normal” Thanksgiving food. Looks so yum though…

  3. Ellen

    For as long as I can remember, my mother has been setting aside the turkey neck for my father. He waits impatiently for it to be boiled and ready for him to eat each year. And we’re all of Scottish, Irish and Dutch ancestry around here.

    Next year I’ll have to see if Dad will share.

  4. Dave

    Same here. Mt wife is a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, apple and pumkin pies. Like you the only variation I can seem to get away with is the side vegetables.

  5. Stephanie

    I was hostage for years too, but have discovered the secret… holding dinner at my house where I’m in charge of all that emerges. I too, still keep a sense of tradition but with unique riff on themes. My favorite this year; chestnut and mushroom spaetzle! Delicious but still special holiday scrumptiousness. I also made a kabocha squash cheesecake with ginger-pecan crust that I’ll be posting soon. Tough to break ALL the way out of the mold, isn’t it?

  6. Adam K.

    Hmm. The rest of the year is for adventure. Thanksgiving is for tradition. I’m a bit upset that I didn’t get mashed potatoes where I went this year, but whatchu gonna do? Will have to pick my venue more wisely next year!

    Yvo: Do you now eat a “normal” Thanksgiving? And what was your typical “abnormal” Thanksgiving meal growing up?

  7. […] The meal my family eats on Christmas Eve, a stark contrast to the all-American holiday meals like Thanksgiving, has generally been an all-out feast of 5-10 Chinese dishes cooked by my uncle and my mom, a roast duck or chicken from the store added on, and a dessert of some type that we’re too full to eat. This year, we decided to do something different and serve hot pot. I’ve seen some places refer to this communal meal as “Chinese fondue,” while others go with the Japanese word for it, Shabu Shabu. Basically, it’s the type of meal that Scarlett Johannsen and Bill Murray are befuddled by in that scene in the restaurant in that hideous movie, Lost in Translation. […]

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