THANKSGIVING dinner’s star in America is the roast turkey carving. Like most Filipinos in America, I felt so very much part of American culture and tradition when I roasted my family’s first turkey during our first Thanksgiving celebration in America, some 16 years ago. I served it complete with all the traditional fixings and side dishes — mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, green beans, roasted sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie for dessert.
Every year this has been a tradition in our family until this year’s celebration. My husband and I looked at each other in the eye and became real and authentic with what we really feel in the past 16 years — we both have never ever really enjoyed eating turkey with its bland taste and weird texture. We both never had the gastronomic satisfaction of eating this bird and all that motivated us in serving this meal is the American tradition.
Yes, the turkey dinner looks so good and photogenic, great for posting on Facebook and Instagram, but this is just not us. Now we realize we do not need to pretend we love the turkey dinner to feel being part of this adoptive country that we now call home. The truth is: we are now American citizens who have been raising our family in the United States for almost two decades now. We do not need the tasteless turkey spread to validate that. It is time to be real. We are breaking up with turkey during Thanksgiving beginning next year.
Looking at posts of friends on social media, I am pleasantly surprised my husband and I are not alone. Now I see a lot of kababayans turning to our traditional comfort and fiesta fare to celebrate Thanksgiving — lechon, kare kare, adobo, nilagang bulalo, crispy pata, lechon manok, caldereta, menudo, Filipino spaghetti, pancit bihon/canton, lumpia, sugpo, alimango, laing, latok, buko salad, leche flan, ube, and more.
It feels liberating to come to terms with this realization and acceptance of who we are. We do not have to pretend to enjoy eating turkey just because it is very American. The truth is — America is a nation of immigrants. Turkey may have been what was available during the times of the early immigrants of America but that was their time.
We now live in a different time and we have our own cuisine that we enjoy eating especially during Thanksgiving — the time of the year when Americans gather together with family and be grateful for all the graces we have been blessed with. Part of that is who we are as immigrants, our unique attributes, culture and heritage that we bring with us as we built our new life in America. That includes our delicious food that reflects our heart, soul, and tummies as Filipinos in America. We, in fact, enrich the culture of America as we take part in sharing this with our fellow Americans.
So what to do with the leftover turkey? I will cook sopas, turkey pot pie and pasta —para walang sayang (so there’s no waste). But next year, I will cook what we really want to dine and wine with. What a great authentic Thanksgiving that will really be!
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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos