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Exploring the Palate: Thanksgiving Tastes and Traditions

By Jackson Hill, Ingrid Kildiss, Shanelle Lopez, Olivia Manna and Carly Sorenson

Think beyond the Turkey.

Gaura Narayan has a busy week ahead of her. She blames this in part on the candied yams she makes every year for Thanksgiving dinner, using a 50-year-old recipe she borrowed from a friend. “The yams take three days of cooking,” she says. “One day you boil them, one day you fry them, and the third day you stick them in the oven.”

All across campus, students, staff, and faculty alike are preparing to head home and indulge in a lavish meal. Some, like Narayan, an associate professor of literature, are responsible for most of the cooking that takes place. Others have few Thanksgiving Day responsibilities other than to show up with a plate. Some look forward to dinners that reflect their cultures in the most delicious ways. And still others wish they could be back home for their bountiful Thanksgiving banquets.

Anthony Feliciano, a second year graduate student studying opera, wishes he could be back home with his family in Hawaii to enjoy the good times and tastes of the island. “A nice ham with pineapple glaze and kalbi ribs,” he says longingly. “Then some white rice, steak, and pork lau lau, real Hawaiian style.” 📷

Junior opera student Kevin Jasaitis has a much shorter trip for his Thanksgiving. “We all just head over to my grandma’s house next door and let the feasting commence,” he says excitedly. “We do Thanksgiving real American style, but my mom makes her fudge pie. Just imagine a brownie, but like, in an entire pie.”

Sophomore psychology major Colin Bateman also looks forward to the comfort of the classic American meal. “My family is Irish, but we usually eat a pretty typical American Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy, and biscuits or bread of some kind,” he says. But the repetition doesn't seem to bother Bateman–whose eyes twinkle when she talks about going home for Thanksgiving break. “The tradition means a lot,” she says.

Although in the past her Thanksgiving included turkey, ham and everything in between, this Thanksgiving will be different for Greta Silva.“This is my first vegetarian Thanksgiving,” she says. Worry shoots across Silva’s face when asked what she’ll be eating. “I have no idea,” she says. “I want to make a vegetarian lasagna, but I don’t know how that’s going to work out. I want to incorporate traditional foods and make it vegetarian friendly because I am the only vegetarian in my family.”

Plenty of Purchase folks can relate to Silva’s situation. Junior sociology major Jade Rodriguez’s family also leaves turkey off of the menu. Rodriguez is Puerto Rican and says that her family “does not see the point of turkey.” Instead, they have substitutions such as pasteles, a traditional Latin American dish quite similar to a tamale, or flan, two very popular Hispanic dishes.

Narayan also cooks a meatless meal on Thanksgiving. In addition to candied yams, she serves Indian dishes that are traditionally vegetarian, such as “tamarind rice, a vegetarian curry called avial, which is coconut and yogurt-based, and a yogurt dish called dahi bara.”

Despite the mountains of food made for this day, jazz studies major Whisper Jahney McRae dreams and salivates over just one thing. “There’s always turkey and mashed potatoes, but I cannot wait to get my hands on that nice warm Jiffy cornbread,” she says. “It completes the meal quite nicely.”



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