America is a country founded upon immigration and a myriad of cultures with nowhere to go, hoping for a better opportunity. We were all immigants at one point in our family history. Benjamin Franklin’s father was an Englishman. President Obama’s father was Kenyan. It is in our history to be from other places, but we are all still American.
While my parents immigrated from China nearly thirty years ago, they steadfastly held on to the roots and culture of the Chinese. It comes as no surprise that the most important holiday of the year in my family is still the Chinese New Year. However, they’ve lived in America for nearly thirty years, and we’ve had to assimilate–especially when both my brother and I started learning about all these American holidays when we started school, and not quite understanding why we didn’t do anything for Christmas.
Of course, assimilation in my family did not mean taking the culture and values of Americans and using that as the standard for our household. Instead, as Chinese people have done for centuries, milleniums even, we take parts of other people’s culture and make it our own. We just celebrated Thanksgiving last night, just like every year for as long as I clearly remember celebrating Thanksgiving. Every year, We have a turkey, ham, and sometimes yams. That is where we stop being American and we deviate into Chinese culture.
Chinese people, particularly Chinese people from Southern China, tend to like our food cooked and warm. This means that we do not eat salads. We saute our lettuce with garlic instead of adding dressing. We add shrimp to our broccoli because shrimp is also something that is nearly always present in large family meals. At our Thanksgiving, we will have bok choy without fail. Having any sort of family dinner without bok choy at the table is just unthinkable–at least to me. Another food item that always seem to be present is the roast pork. No, this is not a roast pork as the Western culture sees it but roast pork as you would see at a luai where the skin is crispy and the meat is moist and delicious. This is our chinese version of roast pork. When you read that, you’re probably thinking that there aren’t any carbs in our menu. When you’re having a Chinese meal, the carb is nearly always rice (again, this is southern Chinese). Soup is crucial to any meal when you’re in a Chinese household; we had lotus root soup last night.
It’s not the traditional American Thanksgiving I see on television shows, nor is it like what my collegues talk about–instead my family celebrates a very Chinese-American Thanksgiving and I like it just fine.