As with many cultural rituals deemed “American”, Thanksgiving has become the quintessential holiday associated with the fall harvest. However, around the world harvest festivals are an integral part of national and ethnic traditions. Whether it is the Yam Festival popular in Ghana and Nigeria that holds ancestral memories for Africans in America, or ancestral veneration harvest rituals in Korean and Vietnamese culture, Thanksgiving commemoration for the harvest in Brazil, and India, yearly holidays that give thanks are not unique to America. I suspect that many people who celebrate the designated American “Thanksgiving” are really honoring the memory of their own cultural rituals.
The myth is that the first Thanksgiving that Fall harvest in 1621, was a feast that Pilgrims shared in solidarity with the Native people that helped them to survive their harsh beginnings in what would become America. Somehow that Native generosity led to death and destruction to the indigenous peoples and cultures that had thrived before the arrival of Europeans. So the celebration of Thanksgiving is problematic in many ways, and in many Native communities it is seen as a day of mourning.
But, as with most human interactions, there are many complexities. No doubt, Thanksgiving is a celebration of settler culture. However, the complicated embrace of the holiday by a mosaic of groups who make America their home, through enslavement, forced relocation or immigration, is nuanced. There is a growing movement to decolonize not only Thanksgiving, but many of the ways in which colonialism has infiltrated and influenced our multicultural identities. One of those most overt ways is the colonization of our food traditions. Celebrating the harvest in itself is a conscious spiritual acknowledgement. Enjoying these rituals in the context or our personal and collective histories, where we have been and where we now find ourselves, would be an act of honoring our contribution to humanity. So choosing to create our own cultural version of Thanksgiving in itself can be revolutionary, and an acknowledgement that many of our ancestors didn't land on Plymouth Rock.
So, I don't stand in judgement when family or friends celebrate giving thanks for another ‘harvest’ and for the mercies that they have been afforded. I understand that even as the governance structure under which they exist attempts to narrate their social structure, many people who celebrate Thanksgiving, are very intentional about what they are really giving homage to. It is just one of the myriad of ways that the colonized have navigated the yoke of colonization and held onto their own ways of knowing and creating rituals within a larger society that speaks to their own cultural norms.
Check out some unique cultural dishes to add to your harvest celebrations.
JAMAICAN COCONUT RICE AND PEAS
3/4 cup dried kidney beans
3 cups long grain brown rice (jasmine or basmati)
2 cups coconut milk
4 cups cups water
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 sprigs of scallion chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch ginger, freshly grated
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 whole Scotch Bonnet pepper
1 tsp. Granulated onion
1 tsp. Granulated garlic
1 vegetable bouillon cube
2 Tbsp. olive or coconut oil
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Add water to dried beans and cook until soft
Add onion, spring onion, garlic, ginger, and thyme to a skillet and sauté until onions are just translucent. Add dry spices and cook for 30 seconds.
Add sauté veggies to pot with beans and stir
Dissolve veggie bouillon cube in hot beans
Add coconut milk and salt
Add scotch bonnet pepper whole.
Add rice and stir with a fork to combine, check to make sure there the liquid is about 1 1/2 inches above the rice.
Cover pot, bring to boil again. Reduce heat and cook for about 50 minutes- 1 hour.
Remove scotch bonnet pepper before serving
SAUTÉED CHAYOTE SQUASH
A green pear shaped squash, belonging to the gourd family and originating in southern Mexico. It was a staple ingredient in the Aztec diet. A favorite in New Orleans cuisine.
4 chayote squash (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
½ red bell pepper cut in strips
3 tablespoons butter (or use vegan option)
4 shallots, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 heaping tablespoon)
1 tsp. sea salt, to taste
1tsp. Cayenne pepper
Slice squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place cut side down on a cutting board and cut in thin slices.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced shallots and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are tender and beginning to brown. Add the red bell pepper strips with garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute longer.
Add chayote squash slices to the skillet and continue to cook, turning often, for about 5 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
MEALS TO GO AND PANTRY
We now carry curated weekly meals and a monthly pantry for your convenience. Eating healthy is now easier than ever, and there are poultry and seafood options included. Meals can be ordered until Sunday at midnight and will be delivered the following Thursday between 10a and 4p to your home or office. Order online at paradisedetroit.com