This year was one of the 5th orphaned Thanksgiving tradition that my husband and I hosted. It was a showcase of oven roasted turkey and side dishes to gorge on. The prized turkey was made with herb butter under skin cooked with sage, paprika, and salt on the skin, and to help it along, cooked in an oven bag. Yes, instead of every 20 minute basting, I only had to baste once an hour. It cooked quickly within 4 hours, the 12 pound turkey was done. All side dishes had butter in them. I remembered what Julia Child always said, "You can leave out the cream and butter [from your dishes] if you want, but you'll be sorry!"
This year I asked myself, why put myself through the hard work of cooking, preparing, and cleaning for orphaned friends, that either do not have close family, or chose to otherwise stay away from their blood relatives during this time? I being first generation of Colombian parents, never had a proper traditional turkey dinner cooked at home; yet here I was, fulfilling a very American tradition that goes back to the pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a meal for survival.
Many people I spoke to changed or added touches of cuisine from their native lands and culture. An Asian American friend, always included a mix of long and short grain rice to his meal instead of potatoes. A Latina woman always included tamales. A Persian friend, was making curried rack of lamb instead of turkey. An African American friend always enjoyed the mac and cheese dish topped with crab meat. This year, my mother brought some plantains to fry. I've also heard rumors of salmon instead of turkey. I guess we can say Thanksgiving is evolving, transforming to fit into our needs.
I am a glutton for punishment I suppose, as I embarked on another large meal and hosting. I remember the women in my family always ran the kitchen, preparing big lunches for the entire family. It was a sense of pride, and duty to take care of family. I couldn't go to an other's house, as we were invited. I couldn't forgo the turkey, as it was now expected, a tradition had been born to come to our house. I couldn't leave people homeless without a place to find a small bit of comfort during this season as we move more and more into the darkness and cold. Most of all I resigned myself to the fact that I am part of this American tradition, and was manifesting fresh year after year. My single favorite thing about Thanksgiving meal is still the dessert & fresh whipped cream; but of course what would we be without the family we create to share it with.