Thanksgiving is always a weird time for me. I’m the first generation in a mixed race family. A weird mixed race family at that. My father is Iranian and my mother is Taiwanese.
On top of both my parents being immigrants, they’re also part of a much older generation than me. My sister and I are millennials while my brother is in that iffy space where he could be Generation X or Generation Y (the millennials if you prefer).
My parents are both in their sixties and neither of them like traditional Thanksgiving food. My dad abhors turkey actually — which is funny since he, my brother, and I are all Hokies. And it’s tradition for us Hokies to eat our mascot at games.
Growing up, my parents did traditional Thanksgiving food for dinner. Every year we’d have beef dumplings throughout the day that we’d steam to keep healthy and juicy.
Then for dinner we’d have turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and that jazz. Well, sort of. In addition to the traditional Thanksgiving food we’d always have a nice ham present at the table as our second main dish — thank goodness.
I don’t know why we did it since most of us don’t like Thanksgiving food, but we always did, until my senior year of high school or freshman year of college. That was when my parents revealed their distaste for Thanksgiving food.
I suppose it’s a bit weird that a half-Iranian family would eat ham, isn’t it? After all, Iran is predominantly Muslim and they’re forbidden to eat pork. Well, no one in the immediate family has ever been a Muslim.
But, while we do as a whole have a distaste for pork in general, my mom is partial to it being Taiwanese. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to force down a pork chop my mom cooked because she wanted to have pork chops for dinner.
Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that’s very important to my father. What with Iran being under the tyranny of the current regime, it’s incredibly important to him and my family that he is free and not persecuted for his (former) religion here in the States.
So, what do we do now for Thanksgiving? It’s not like we’re going to stop celebrating it.
The answer? We sort of have three-year cycle for food. One year is Iranian, one year is American, and one year (which was last year and absolutely mouth-watering) is a combination of the two. However, there’s no particular order to this cycle… So, I guess it’s just a quirky habit of ours.
Last year, we had Tahchin, which is layered basmati rice with lamb. It’s delicious and sweet while still savory since the main spice is saffron. And we used Persian saffron on top of that (there is a taste difference believe it or not).
But, what are the little red berries on the top of the dish? Well, they’re not cranberries. They’re barberries, a sharp acidic berry that plays very well with saffron.
While we had turkey at my sister’s request, the Tahchin was the star of the show last year. It was the first time my dad had ever made it and it turned out, surprisingly, very well.
The last time he tried something new for a family dinner it didn’t go so well. We ended up having orange rice, which was supposed to be a savory dish according to my dad. But, even with the sugar cut in half we had a rice that tasted like dessert.
Last year we served the lamb and the rice separately. It was off beat from the traditional way to serve Tahchin, but allowed us to decide how much of everything we wanted to eat.
This year we’re doing another American-Iranian fusion Thanksgiving with our neighbor. Meaning I thankfully will not be preparing a turkey that will sit in the fridge for days after Thanksgiving.
But it doesn’t matter what we prepare for Thanksgiving. What matters is getting together with your loved ones and enjoying good food as a group. A lot of people I know complain about getting together with their families and having to deal with everything around Thanksgiving.
I know my family has our ups and downs, but we put them aside when Thanksgiving comes around. We enjoy the holiday and remember that despite how much we aggravate each other at times that we’ll be there for each other as long as we can.