As a child what I remember wanting most was to be as American as Apple Pie. I wanted my parents to speak English without an accent, I wanted to have an American style turkey (no idea what that meant) for Thanksgiving dinner, and not one prepared in the same way my Mom made roast chicken on Shabbat, and I definitely wanted to have Barbie dolls like the other girls I knew. None of those wishes came true. My parents never lost their accents, my mother only made turkey one way, with garlic, salt and pepper, and she never bought me a Barbie doll. She wasn’t a great believer in toys in general but I think that if she had agreed to buy me a doll, it would not have looked like Barbie and it would not have had a boyfriend that was blonde and named Ken. It was too much to ask.
At some point, there was some kind of awakening and I realized how lucky I was to be living in the ethnically diverse community that existed in the Bronx in the 50s and 60s. Now those cultural influences, that I wanted so much to shed, is what I love most about my childhood, and I cherish that my Thanksgiving dinner reflects a cross-section of the people who I have come across in my life. I now happily pair garlic turkey with the candied sweet potatoes that my mother learned to make from Edie, my cousin’s African American housekeeper. I love that my daughter still makes “corn pone” from an Amish cookbook we bought her when she was just a little girl and we were visiting Amish country in Pennsylvania. ( I did publish this recipe in 2011 but she has changed it and now I call it cornbread) This year my dinner will include a sweet potato pie that I was given by a colleague who is a descendent of slaves and Native Americans.
My children, all born and raised in Los Angeles have grown up with other culinary influences. Persian, Mexican and Middle Eastern dishes have crept into our kitchens, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one day those influences make an appearance at our Thanksgiving table.
As I begin my Thanksgiving preparations, I am grateful that my children, daughters-in-law, and now my granddaughter, have helped me, or made on their own, some of the recipes that they have eaten at my table. Mock chopped liver and pumpkin chocolate chip bread are two of the popular ones, and of course cholent as well. If there was one tradition in my family that I want to pass on, it’s that cooking is an act of love and of Thanksgiving.
1 c. sugar
1/2 cup non-dairy margarine or butter
1 1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal
1 1/2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups non-dairy creamer or milk
1 – 14 oz. can creamed corn
Cream together margarine and sugar, add slightly beaten eggs and mix together well. In another bowl sift cornmeal with flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk to batter. Add creamed corn, mix gently and pour into greased and floured 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake at 450″ for 30-35 minutes. I think the texture is better if made the day before. Serves 8-10
Notes: I prefer a glass Pyrex to a metal baking pan because I think it results in a moister texture. Don’t over bake or it will be dry. Try adding something new, like sliced green onions, or jalapeno.
Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving,