Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday of the year. It has all of the elements that I find most desirable – a time to gather with family and extended family, lots of good food and fun. Most importantly from my standpoint, it has not been commercialized the way Christmas has in much of the West with the focus being on gift-giving and shopping. In the case of Thanksgiving the only shopping that one does is buying groceries for the dinner.

Wikipedia says: “Thanksgiving Day is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in Canada and the United States. Traditionally, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general. While perhaps religious in origin, Thanksgiving is now primarily identified as a secular holiday.”

There is really no equivalent holiday in India to Thanksgiving – perhaps, Onam which is a huge holiday in Kerala has some of the spirit of Thanksgiving though the similarities are limited.

We are hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year and will have around 28 people – most are family or extended family and a couple of friends. It is the one function that over the years – when we have hosted it – we have insisted should be done as far as possible in the traditional American way in terms of the cuisine. Yes, there will be the obligatory couple of items which have an Indian flavor but the dominant theme will be American with turkey, stuffing, beans casserole, corn casserole, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, etc.

I have to give full credit for the idea of making Thanksgiving traditional occasion to a friend from Chicago where we then lived – Thomas Idichandy, who was then a relatively recent immigrant from India. He was from Kerala and they were a fairly traditional Indian family. We spent our second Thanksgiving in the US – in 1972 – with them and I expected dinner to be Indian fare with a biriyani and other similar items with perhaps the obligatory turkey. I was surprised to find it was nothing like that – and was as traditional as you would find at any American home. Idichandy said the reason that he was insistent on keeping it traditional was primarily for the sake of his two very young children who had just started school. It is usual here for young children to be asked at school as to how they celebrated Thanksgiving and he felt that it would be unfair to his kids to have to listen to other kids talk about the traditional Thanksgiving that they celebrated and feel like the odd ones out in not being able to relate if they were eating Indian cuisine.

We then had one child – Saira – who was then two years old and as time went by, I felt that he had a legitimate point. This was our rationale as well – though as time went by and the kids grew up, it seemed like a good idea, in any event, to follow American tradition with regard to this one holiday. After all, we eat Indian food most of the year – so it makes for a pleasant change! Besides, cooking the traditional Thanksgiving with all of the fixins’ is still a lot less work than preparing Indian food for a similar celebration.

I am personally in charge of the turkey, mashed potatoes and a surprise dish which I have previously cooked and has been well received. It is not typical Thanksgiving fare by any means but it introduces a little variety to the dinner! I recommend this recipe to anyone who wants to try something different. As you can see it has great reviews.

A dinner for 28 people is a huge undertaking but all of those attending are helping out so it becomes manageable.

So have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone – and in the spirit of the season I would urge you to send a card in support of our troops. Irrespective of one’s views about the wisdom of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or US foreign policy, I think we can all agree that our troops – who are, after all, following orders – deserve our support, especially at this time of the year when they are away from their families.

One Response to “Thanksgiving – a great American tradition”

  1. saira says:

    I just saw this post and it is great. As you know, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday as well, despite the fact that it kicks off what I detest most, holiday shopping. Luckily, the good food and family bonding make up for it all.

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