Make Thanksgiving food a melting pot at your own dinner table

Brittany Polevikov, Contributing Writer

Not only does Thanksgiving commemorate the hardships faced by America’s early settlers, but it also brings families and friends together to give thanks. Though Thanksgiving once held much religious significance, in the present day American household, Thanksgiving now focuses on the aspects of food and family.

Much like the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians gathering over an autumn harvest feast, Thanksgiving festivities center around the preparation of a bounty of various dishes to be shared with family at the dinner table. Traditional Thanksgiving dishes include mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, some sort of pie, and of course, a turkey.

However, it may be time to take a different approach to Thanksgiving food. Although America has strong roots in its colonial history, our nation owes much of its rich culture to immigrants.

The United State Census Bureau defines white people as those “having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa, including those are who Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish. As of 2015, white Americans constitute the majority of the United States, accounting for approximately 63% percent of the population as of 2015. African Americans account for 13% of the population, Hispanic and Latino Americans account for 18%, and Asian, Alaska Native, and American Indian account for 8% of the United States population.

Furthermore, immigrants and their U.S.-born descendants are expected to provide most of the U.S. population gains in the decades ahead. Taking into the account the great diversity of the U.S, it is only fitting that the variety of cultures spanning the nation influence food and the way American holidays are celebrated. Incorporating food from other cultures is a simple way to promote diversity and make your Thanksgiving meal a little more exciting!

For those who want to incorporate Asian influence into their Thanksgiving dinner, there are many Asian-American dishes which would make a great addition to the dinner table. Even the simple task of integrating ingredients popular in Asian cuisine such as coconut, jasmine, sesame, soy, and ginger can make any meal more interesting. Butternut squash soup with coconut popcorn, coconut-scented sweet potato jasmine rice stuffed in butternut squash bowls, cranberry sesame salad, fried sweet potato turkey dumplings, and ginger-spiced turkey meatballs with soy-pineapple glaze are just some of the many delicious Asian-inspired dishes.

If that’s not for you, African cuisine may be the way to go. A popular dish is Doro Watt, a traditional Ethiopian chicken stew. Doro Watt contains chicken, lime juice, hard-boiled eggs, chicken stock, ginger, and cardamom, amongst other things. It’s often served on top of injera, a traditional Ethiopian flatbread, which soaks up a lot of the stew’s juices. This recipe is a great way to ease people incorporate a taste of Africa into your Thanksgiving meal,  as it’s similar to many American stews in consistency and appearance, even though it’s spicier and contains whole hard-boiled eggs. You could also try harissa-roasted turkey with mango couscous, an original take on a traditional stuffing.

A simple Google search can provide you with all the recipes you need, or you could try a website like Epicurious, which allows you to filter recipe results by country of origin or ingredients. You can also input any dietary restrictions you or your Thanksgiving guests might have, making Thanksgiving more inclusive for vegetarians or vegans.

In a country where so many ethnicities, races, and cultures are represented, Thanksgiving does not have to be a day in which we only honor the Pilgrims for the foundation of our nation. We can also use Thanksgiving as a time to acknowledge the immigrants who helped make America the melting pot it is today. No two cultures are alike, so the possibilities for new twists on traditional Thanksgiving foods are endless.