The Pot-Luck Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a safe, happy and delicious Thanksgiving! Now that the last of the leftovers have been either polished off or thrown out and we have been bombarded by everything Christmas (is it just me or is the season a little…aggressive this year?), I can take a moment to look back and reflect on why I love Thanksgiving.

It’s not that I get to give thanks for all the blessings in my life – I do that in my prayers every night before going to sleep. It’s not the ridiculous amounts of delicious food and the opportunities to pig out to my heart’s content – although that of course is a very welcome thing.

What I love about Thanksgiving is the sense of togetherness it conveys. There is something about the holiday that makes even the most mish-mashed group come together in a way that not even the Christmas holiday can achieve.

This phenomenon is, to me, best explained by the pot-luck Thanksgiving meal, my favorite kind. It is my belief that everyone has at least ONE dish or tradition that defines Thanksgiving for them, something that – without it – the holiday seems incomplete. In hosting my Thanksgiving meals I encourage my guests to bring their “Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without X” item. Somehow, even though the dishes might not necessarily go together on your average meal, on Thanksgiving there doesn’t seem to be any wrong combination of foods. They always just mesh.

I usually cook a Puerto Rican Thanksgiving: rice with gandules (pigeon peas), turkey  seasoned like pork, and meat stuffing, but all that I can do without if I were to be invited to someone else’s house for the holiday. The one thing I absolutely MUST have on Thanksgiving is my grandmother’s oatmeal cake (sounds gross, I know, but believe me, it’s delicious!). It is a closely guarded family recipe that was Abuelita’s pride and joy and has graces our Thanksgiving table for as long as I can remember. Without it, Thanksgiving feels…empty.

Knowing I’m not the only one, I asked some friends what their “Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without X” item is. Here they are:

“Turkey….it makes us gather around to look at it and enjoy it.”  – Igraine

 “Mofongo stuffed turkey! [mofongo is a delicious Puerto Rican dish made of mashed yucca or plaintain]. Living abroad, coming to PR  for thanksgiving weekend and being able to eat the traditional turkey plus the Puerto Rican mofongo all in one was the best welcome home meal!” – Maripili

 “Every Thanksgiving, I HAVE to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. It marks the official beginning of Christmas!”  – Laura

 “Pumpkin cheesecake!” – Carina

“In addition to the turkey, my “batatas [sweet potatoes] con marshmallow“…. I have made them since I was 13 and they have since become a family tradition. I know that not all of the members of our family like them but I do it for those who do. Some of those years with college projects to finish or a baby to take care of, I remember the great sacrifice it was to get all the ingredients together and actually cook it. However, no matter what, I have always delivered my batatas – they remind me that I am part of a tribe, a clan who loves, needs and appreciates me and what I do for them. It also reminds me of all those years together and those who are no longer here to share it.”       – Karen

I couldn’t have put it any better myself!





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