Tandoori Turkey and Scotch

I thought since its Thanksgiving why not do a small survey of what is being eaten in Desi kitchens. Growing up in my house we usually ate traditional Lasangna or some equally rebellious dish. I have always been a bit of a Grinch when it comes to the holidays so I don’t care about corporate America’s traditions. From the Portsmouth Herald:

Turkey Tandoori, anyone? Well, not exactly, but Gill Varinder, manager of Shalimar Restaurant, said that some of his native India makes it to his Thanksgiving meal.

“We do celebrate Thanksgiving. All the Indians here have for a long time. Mostly they will cook the turkey like everyone else does, but the stuffing is different. Ninety percent of the time, the stuffing is made with spinach and green peas.”

Varinder said that, while a turkey can be cooked in a traditional Tandoori oven, it would take a very long time, and on the Indian table garlic is a big ingredient for the turkey.

“We slice the skin and put garlic under it. Our gravy is a bit different, too. We take about 5 pounds of fresh lamb and cook it with onions, ginger, garlic, cumin and tumeric, and cook it down for three or four hours until itÂ’s very thick and dark brown.”

What else is different and whatÂ’s the same on the Indian table?

“We donÂ’t have much pie, but the side dishes are usually the same as the regular dinner. We have mashed potatoes but also some rice and chapatti (whole-wheat flat bread). And we drink scotch.”

Mashed potatoes and scotch. Some things on the Thanksgiving table transcend cultures.

I blame my parents for not teaching me proper traditions. If I had access to scotch than perhaps my view of the Holidays would be different. In Boston Deepak Singh takes a slightly more conventional approach to Thanksgiving. Its all about the food.

In a suburb of Boston, Thanksgiving is all about blending cultures. Ever since Deepak Singh emigrated from Dehli in 1989, he has been perfecting a Thanksgiving menu that offers a turkey seasoned American-style, with only salt and pepper, and a masala-scented stuffing seasoned with whatever bits of Indian food and sauce are left over in the refrigerator. Then he covers the rest of the table with as many Indian dishes as he can, sometimes feeding up to 30 friends and family members.

At Singh’s table, dinner is not a political statement. Nor is it an opportunity to reflect on the impromptu harvest festival that started the whole thing more than 300 years ago.

“I can assure you, nobody is sitting down and thinking of the Pilgrims and the Indians and the corn,” Singh said. “Neither are we spectacularly saying, ‘Oh, gosh, Americans have taken over everything, and we don’t care for that.’ It’s just a huge eating escapade.”

The preceding article is a great read because it gets into discussing a few other cultures. Apparently many Chinese use Thanksgiving to get married. That is why its always so damn hard for me to find good take-out on this day. Finally, here is an immigrant story that will thaw your heart a little this Thanksgiving. Mine grew one whole size.

Across the room sat a young couple from the Noakhali district of Bangladesh, Bishwazit Mojumder, 31, and his wife, Mukta, 22. Bishwazit has lived in this country for seven years. They married two years ago in Bangladesh, but his wait for U.S. citizenship delayed Mukta’s arrival until two months ago.

The reunion gives their first Thanksgiving special resonance.

“The people here are very good; they help human beings,” Bishwazit said enthusiastically. “Now we are so happy, because she is here with me. When we were apart, we had very hard times. I tried to call her every day.”

In Bangladesh, more than 35 percent live below the poverty line. Bishwazit earned a math degree there and hopes to pursue business opportunities here. He’s worked for two years at a pizza establishment and is happy with the stability and growing friendships.

“America give me better life,” Bishwazit said, “in everything. Safety. Money. First, I give thanks to God. Before I came here, I had no idea about Thanksgiving. Then I saw how everybody gets this holiday. It’s for everybody.”

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