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Thanksgiving Done Assyrian Style

Although Thanksgiving is an American holiday, many families tend to add their own twist to it, mine included. I am Assyrian-American, so there is always an interesting intersection between the two cultures I share, especially in regards to food. At home I eat a lot of traditional American dishes, but I also enjoy a lot of my own ethnic food. As a result, Thanksgiving dinner at my house is the ultimate crossover between my American and Assyrian nationalities. 

Here are some dishes found on my Thanksgiving dinner table that really show the interchange between my Assyrian roots and American culture:

Dolma

These green cocoon-like hors d’oeuvres are composed of grape leaves stuffed with rice seasoned with spices, veggies and/or meat. They can be served warm or cold and are a staple snack in Assyrian households. 

Lahmacun

This is one of my favorite snacks at home. Lahmacun consists of a thin, round piece of dough topped with diced meat, vegetables, herbs and spices that is baked to a crisp.

Rice & Tahdig

If there is one thing Assyrians cannot live without, it is rice. We eat rice with practically every dish; it is a fundamental part of our diet. Thanksgiving dinner would not be complete without a giant plate of rice flavored with saffron and dried cranberries. In addition, we tend to make tahdig as part of our rice dish, which is the crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the pot. There are three versions of it: regular tahdig, potato tahdig (lining the bottom of the pot with potato slices) and bread tahdig (lining the bottom of the pot with thin bread) — the last one being my favorite. 

Turkey & Broth

Thanksgiving would not be the same without its star player, the turkey. My mom prepares the turkey normally with seasoning and stuffing, and bakes it until it has that perfect golden glow. One difference with the “American” version, is that she cooks it in a broth so that some flavor from the turkey seeps into the liquid. We then use this broth to add flavor to our rice. 

Salad-e Shirazi

This salad is comprised of chopped up cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and bell peppers soaked in a lemon vinaigrette. It is one of my favorite salads ever for its juiciness and acidity. My sisters and I always fight over who gets to drink the leftover juice once the salad is gone. I usually win.

Mashe

This dish is pretty simple and straightforward, but delicious nonetheless. It is a bean soup made of small red beans, tomato paste and an assortment of spices.

Baklawa

When it comes to dessert, you can never go wrong with baklawa. This ultra-sweet pastry is a combination of filo dough, crushed nuts (usually pistachios and or walnuts) and very sugary syrup. We normally tend to eat this (along with other sweets) after dinner is done and chai (tea) has been served. 

No matter where you came from, what language you speak or what food you eat, Thanksgiving is a holiday for everyone. It is a time for family, friends and delicious food, and everyone deserves to enjoy that in whatever way they choose to. Just grab some people and get cooking! 

Kristin is a fourth year MCDB major and Film minor who loves to create art and bring a smile to people's faces. You can probably find her at the beach or in bed. Oh, and she is in love with cookies and cartoons.