Thanksgiving has always meant turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie to my family, however, for many Americans, the table will be set with other types of traditional food. Like jellyfish-and-seaweed salad.
As Chang-rae Lee writes in last week's New Yorker magazine, his family's experience of cooking their first American Thanksgiving dinner was a mix of cultures and cuisines. It was 1972 and they opted to include a turkey their otherwise traditional Korean feast on Thanksgiving. When it came time to roast the turkey, however, they weren't sure how to cook it and consulted a neighbor's recipe:
"Now my mother is nearly done baking the turkey. Bake she must, because there's no Roast setting on the oven. It reads "Roast" in Mrs. Churchill's beautifully handwritten instructions, and the Churchills have gone away for the holiday."
Have you ever found yourself pouring over a recipe that seemed to come easily to your grandmother or parents, but looked like a foreign language? Typical recipes passed down in my family neglect cooking times and even ingredient amounts. The writer's family structured the rest of the meal around their own traditional recipes:
"We'll have the bird and its giblet stuffing a la Churchill (a recipe I still make), but the rest of the table is laid with Korean food, and skewed fancy besides, featuring the sort of dishes reserved for New Year celebrations: gu jeol pan, a nine-compartment tray of savory fillings from which delicate little crepes are made; a jellyfish-and-seaweed salad; long-simmered sweet short ribs; fried hot peppers stuffed with beef; and one of my favorites, thin slices of raw giant clam, whose bottom-of-the-sea essence almost makes me gag, but doesn't quite, and is thus bracing, galvanic, a rushing of the waters."
Are you planning an unconventional Thanksgiving menu this year?
• Read more: Magical Dinners at The New Yorker (subscription required for full article)