Thanksgiving is the holiday defined by the food we eat. We think of it as the day an entire nation comes together for a traditional meal: turkey, sweet potatoes and/or mashed potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie, among others. The truth is, however, that even though these foods may reign supreme, to many families, they serve as loose guidelines rather than as strict rules. My own family sometimes even makes oven-baked sweet potato fries instead of baking sweet potatoes the traditional way, and instead of making a pecan pie (which is really sweet) or a pumpkin pie (which is pretty savory) we make a killer pumpkin-pecan pie, mixing the best of both worlds.

This week, I decided to ask around campus about Thanksgiving traditions that break from the norm. Turns out, our most American holiday still has plenty of individuality when it comes to mixing in food from different cultures, adding zany traditions or just good ol’ culinary experimentation. Here are some of my favorites!

Jake Schade ’17

“In the morning my whole family cooks together. We do a few special things, like making our cornbread cranberry stuffing: instead of using breadcrumbs we go to Whole Foods and get cornbread to use instead. Then we also mix in our homemade cranberry sauce!”

Corinne Lowe ’17

“My overly health-conscious sister makes our Thanksgiving meals and she decided that mashed cauliflower was a viable alternative for mashed potatoes…The jury’s still out on that one in my family.”

Allison Berger ’18

“We don’t do much unique cooking on thanksgiving, but we do have one special tradition. Most people on the night before don’t eat that much, but we go to the Cheesecake Factory on Wednesday night because no one’s there!” Of course, I had to inquire what her favorite type of cheesecake was. Her answer?

Apparently it’s Dulce de Leche!

These ideas certainly provide some Thanksgiving inspiration – I might not be quite brave enough to try ceviche on Thursday, but cornbread cranberry stuffing sounds like it’s worth a try. Thanksgiving shouldn’t just be about the typical turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce; your family’s own quirks and innovations are really what give that third Thursday in November its mysterious “Thanksgiving flavor.”