USA Holiday Food Mashup
By Chef Brian Renz
What do all the different cultures in the United States serve for their holiday celebrations?
My first assignment was asking my neighbors. To the south of me lives a couple from Russia. Their holiday calendar is a little different. They celebrate Thanksgiving like everyone else but will “honor” Advent with a Porridge made from rice and honey, berries and dried fruit. They do not eat any meat or fish. On Christmas Eve it is a tradition to eat Sauerkraut served with cranberries, cumin, carrots and onion, and, as a side dish, porridge with onion rings and fried mushrooms.
The couple to the north of me is from India. Their tradition for Thanksgiving is a Turkey but different side dishes. Carrot Halwa is a pureed dish of carrots flavored with mint, butter, nuts and raisins, and spiced with cardamon. For Christmas it is tradition to make Chicken Biryani or Vegetable Biryani. This usually consists of Basmati rice with chicken breasts, butter, curry pasta, dried fruit, onions, cinnamon, coriander, toasted nuts, and usually almonds.
The family across the street is from Iowa but parents are from Korea. They like to make a pork roast. The one unique item this family always prepares is Japchae, which is a Korean stir fry sweet potato noodle. It’s a vegetarian dish with mushrooms, sweet potato white noodles, sesame oil, soy sauce, brown sugar carrots and spinach.
Because I have been traveling throughout the country visiting accounts for Taher, I’ve been able to ask some of our food service directors what their families serve. They ALL serve turkey for Thanksgiving. Here is a breakdown:
Michigan: European-Style. Thanksgiving, unique from others featuring wild rice pilaf with mushrooms and sausage, jello salad with sherbet and mandarin oranges, and pumpkin whoopie pies. Christmas: prime rib, horseradish sauce, potatoes (herb roasted and mashed) and mincemeat pie.
Texas: Venuzalian-Style. Hallaca, a big tamale wrapped in plantain leaves with soft masa stuffed with marinated diced beef, chicken, pork, green olives, capers, raisins and other vegetables. Pan de Jamon is a bread stuffed with smoked ham, bacon, raisins, green olives and capers. The bread is stretched out and rolled like a pinwheel. En Salada de Gallina, cold mayo-based potato salad with chicken, green peas, diced carrots and hard boiled eggs. Pernil, roasted pork loin marinated in garlic, bay leaves, oregano, aji dulce and orange juice.
Texas: Rodeo-Style. Corn Bread Stuffing with bacon, Beef Brisket rubbed with brown sugar and apple cider vinegar, and Smoked Macaroni & Cheese. And, make sure the drumstick and wings are “extra crunchy done.”
Arizona: Traditional with a Mexican Flair. Turkey and dressing but throw in tamales, homemade tortillas and pistachio pineapple pudding.
Kansas: Shrimp hush puppies with fried potato…and shopping!