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A Multi-Cultural Thanksgiving, Just Like the First One

When you think about it, the original Thanksgiving was the first celebration of diversity inthanksvingart what was to become the United States.  English settlers in stiff European attire sat down with buckskin clad Indians to a meal that combined foods from both the “Old World” and the “New World.” This Thanksgiving, all across the country, multi-cultural gatherings will celebrate the holiday with indigenous foods and foods with a foreign flavor.

My girlfriend’s in-laws emigrated from Italy. Her in-laws’ sons married women with multiple heritages including percentages of English, Irish, German and American Indian. Their Thanksgiving meal starts with an Italian antipasto and follows with Turkey, pasta, eggplant parmesan, swiss chard and apple pie and Italian cookies for dessert. Another friend of ours is Vietnamese and is married to a man of Scandinavian descent from the Midwest. Thanksgiving at her house stars a traditional Vietnamese mealpilgrims_indians with football games blaring in the background.

Our Thanksgiving also satisfies the tastes and sensibilities of two very different cultures. My grandparents were Russian Jews. My husband immigrated to the United States from Pakistan at the age of 18. Merging our backgrounds to produce a Thanksgiving tradition all our own proved easier than it might seem.  Both cultures believe in the maxim that there can never be enough food, better too much than too little is the rule. Both cultures love socializing and enjoy lively discussions at the dinner table. Both Muslims and Jews follow almost identical dietary laws so there is no debate over whether or not sausage should be included in the stuffing or bacon flavor a vegetable. If a vote were taken the Pakistanis would opt for all the traditional foods and those brought up with American food would opt for Pakistani dishes. Our menu includes a little of both. Two of the appetizers featured this year will be chopped liver and samosas. For dinner, corn bread stuffing will co-exist with curried spinach. Mashed potatoes are allowed on the menu as long as chipotle chilies are added to the usual ingredients. For dessert, a favorite is an almond tart made from honey, butter and almonds that mimics the ultra-sweetness found in Pakistani desserts, but pumpkin pie and chocolate cake are consumed with equal delight by everyone.

Both my husband and I were accustomed to big family gatherings for special occasions, so it’s no wonder we want to share the holiday with family and friends. In the end, what is important is not how we celebrate or what we eat but that we are with the people we love.

Susan Harrison is an attorney by training, home remodeler by accident, and a writer by choice.

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