This weekend was all about giving thanks, feeling gratitude and sharing food with friends and family. Thanksgiving is often stereotyped as a day when Americans stuff themselves fuller than the turkey they are serving, and pass out on the couch while watching a healthy dose of football and other sports entertainment programming on TV. That may be true for the average American, but when your roots lie deep in Russian culture, Thanksgiving takes on a whole new meaning – affectionately known in our family as “RusGiving” or Russian Thanksgiving. Family and food are the name of the game, and no one is allowed to forget where they came from.
Preparing for a Russian Thanksgiving this year was a bit of a challenge — several things had to be considered now that two families are blending into one, yet still striving to preserve our unique traditions. Thanksgiving day was to be spent at the in-laws and I was expected to bring two side dishes. The day after, A. and I hosted another dinner at our home for both sets of parents, siblings and their families — twelve people in all coming together to celebrate and get to know each other.
More than anything, this Thanksgiving weekend was about gratitude for what A. and I found in each other, and the family we are building together. But it was also about the food … Russian American food to be precise.
At the risk of coming off too “Americanized” I had to find a balance between my Russian recipes and standard American Thanksgiving fare. We had the turkey with all the trimmings on Thursday, and then dug into a mouthwatering brisket that A. prepared on Friday. Here’s a sampling of our Friday night dinner menu …
- Fresh chopped liver (purchased at the Russian store)
- Farskmak (fresh herring and egg salad; traditional Russian-Jewish dish)
- Deviled eggs with dill, topped with red caviar
- Marinated cucumbers and tomatoes
- Zucchini fritters with sour cream
- Caprese salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil
- Farmer’s cheese with garlic, cucumbers and dill (prepared by my mother-in-law)
- Cheese plate
- Green asparagus soup with non-fat yogurt instead on heavy cream
- Brisket cooked slowly in dutch over over root vegetables with red wine reduction
- Roasted butternut squash with cilantro, pomegranate seeds & home-made sweet-sour glaze
- Mashed sweet potatoes with rum, double baked with cinnamon and marshmallows
- Boiled young potatoes with fresh dill, butter and garlic
- Quinoa salad with sautéed zucchini and yellow squash, pomegranate seeds
- French bread stuffing with celery and carrots
- Brussels sprouts with bacon and toasted hazelnuts
- Homemade fruit salad with sweet and tangy dressing and chocolate shavings
- Honey layer cake with cherries and sour cream filling
- Fresh fruit
- Russian tea and Turkish coffee
Everyone loves Thanksgiving because it’s a time of year to appreciate your family and enjoy delicious food. For immigrants like me this holiday is particularly touching … it is a time to remember how fortunate I am to be in the land of the free. It also often means figuring out a way to incorporate our unique cultural cuisine with the delicious offerings of a traditional American Thanksgiving meal.
From our family to yours — Happy Holidays and Happy Thanksgiving!