Multicultural Thanksgiving Traditions
With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, homes across America will soon be filled with loved ones, laughter, and, perhaps most importantly, delicious food. Traditional Thanksgiving dishes like turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie ceremoniously star in millions of Thanksgiving dinners. Many would argue that it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving dinner without these dinner staples. However, there really is no singular interpretation of Thanksgiving. With a country as diverse as ours, Thanksgiving dinners are inspired by regional and cultural backgrounds, treasured culinary traditions, and grandmas’ recipes. All of this creates a shared dinner that only you and your family can call your own.
The Spice House believes the foods we eat and spices we cook with are windows into diverse cultures and culinary traditions. Spices have the transcendent ability to transport us across the country, into another world, or back in time with a simple bite. With this curious spirit and Thanksgiving on our minds, we asked our employees to share some of their multicultural Thanksgiving traditions to spotlight the diverse cuisines that bring their families together.
Chicago + Texas + Polish Thanksgiving
I’m a native Chicagoan, my family is Polish by descent, and I spent my early childhood in Houston. This trifecta has led to an unbeatable Thanksgiving feast. While living in Houston, my family and I would go out for kolaches on Thanksgiving morning (klobasnek to the rest of the world, but always kolache to my Houston heart). My favorite of these savory stuffed pastries had jalapeños, cheese, and sausage. For dinner, we'd have fried turkey with cajun seasonings, pierogi, gołąbki, spicy cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole with cracked black pepper, all topped off with sweet potato pie made with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Tamales, Not Turkey, for Thanksgiving
Christina, Human Resources
When I was growing up, my extended family’s Thanksgiving tradition was to meet at my Tia Velia's house to make tamales. This was always at least a two day process. There’d be 20-25 family members making tamales around the table over laughter and jokes. When it was all done, we’d have made around 800 tamales. These tamales, made of ancho chiles, guajillo chiles, garlic, onion, and bay leaves, would be the first things to go at our Thanksgiving table. My mother also made carne guisada using Mexican oregano, garlic, onion, green bell pepper, Tellicherry peppercorns, and cumin. It was so delicious I always ended up skipping the turkey.
Traditional Turkey Served with Colombian Favorites
Growing up, my family always embraced the traditional Thanksgiving cuisine, but with a latin flair. A typical Thanksgiving in our Colombian household would consist of a roasted turkey paired with a meat dish like Sobrebarriga (“over the belly” in English). Tender and juicy flank steak is slow-cooked in beer all day and seasoned generously with cumin, oregano, thyme, fresh black pepper and bay leaves. As for side dishes, we served buttery, garlic mashed potatoes along with a traditional Colombian rice dish, like Arroz con Pollo. If you know Colombian food, you know rice has to be a part of every meal so Thanksgiving was certainly no exception. Oftentimes, multiple rice dishes would be on the menu, like my mom’s Arroz con Coco (coconut rice) or Arroz con Coca Cola (Coca-Cola Rice). For dessert, we’d skip the pie and make Milhojas - translates to “a thousand sheets” - a puff pastry dessert filled with layers of vanilla custard and whipped cream.
A Proper Puerto Rican Thanksgiving Party
Eric, Old Town
In my Puerto Rican family, Thanksgiving is an occasion for a huge family party. At our Thanksgiving dinner, we have a brined, oven-roasted turkey and baked ham that is heavily seasoned with cloves. But, without a doubt, the star of our Thanksgiving dinner has always been lechon pork—seasoned with a medley of spices including cracked Tellicherry peppercorns, garlic, adobo seasoning, red peppers, green peppers, cumin, and fresh herbs. At our dinner, it’s always the lechon that puts everyone to sleep, not the turkey. To end our feast, we have sweet potato pies with nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon for dessert.
The Spice House family would love to hear from your family. Share your family's regional or multicultural Thanksgiving traditions with us by leaving a comment on Facebook, Instagram, or in the comment section below.
My great Aunt in Roanoke, VA., being of Dutch descent, always had a dish of sauerkraut
at her Thanksgiving table…..I have opted for collard greens for many years, and they are always freshly picked from my neighbor’s garden, in SC. Happy Thanksgiving….RPA