Thanksgiving in America is supposed to be a holiday where families, friends, and relatives gather together to celebrate early colonial food staples. However, for the most part, it has become a festive, stomach-bursting affair unique to each family, mostly because everyone has different dishes they prepare. This is why every year on my family’s thanksgiving dinner table, there are no fewer than twenty dishes, ranging from starters like beet salad and spinach pockets, to fried potatoes with garlic and rosemary, to finally honey cake with almonds and pecans. Here are some of the dishes that I grew up eating every 4th Thursday in November that you may choose to put on your table.
On November 28th, people throughout the nation will be gathering around the dinner table with family to devour turkey and pumpkin pie in celebration of Thanksgiving. On that same night, Jews around the world will be gathering around a menorah to light the second candle for the celebration of Hannukah. For American Jews, the collision of these two joyous holidays may bring about a sense of dread. For instance, there is less time to buy presents for Hannukah and not enough time to digest stuffing and mashed potatoes before gobbling chocolate coins, or gelt, from winning games of dreidel. Yet so much can be done to take advantage of the combination of these two holidays! Here are two recipes that take a Thanksgiving twist on Hannukah classics.
Just as it’s time to trade in your favorite gladiator sandals for Steve Madden boots, it’s also time to switch from those earthy wild mushrooms to the prized truffle (like Beyoncé says, “let me upgrade u”).
October is wrapping up with all of its artificial, tooth-aching glory, and is handing over the reigns to the month of our roots (you know, the month of the pilgrims!). The wicked witches, with their “so last month” buckled hats and striped leggings, are forced out on their broom sticks by the marching in of the turkeys. Thanksgiving in. Halloween Out. Read more
With the days quickly getting colder, each morning I feel like I wake up with more of a reason to enjoy one of the best parts of winter: hot chocolate. The history of drinking chocolate interlaces with the history of chocolate itself since way back when chocolate was really only experienced in beverage form. To Aztecs, cocoa beans were considered a kind of currency because of their value. The beans were also roasted into a cold chocolate drink, flavored with wine and chili peppers. Consumption of that drink was a symbol of prestige and power. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that chocolate as we know it today was produced.
The feelings associated with drinking hot chocolate can be compared to the empowering qualities chocolate used to possess historically. As we all know, there are few things as warm, comforting and invigorating during a chilly Boston night as a rich cup of hot chocolate. I’m here to give you some exciting facts about hot cocoa, introduce some of the best recipes I’ve found, and offer up some places to go grab some for those too busy to attempt making some themselves.
One day a particular food or drink is good for you and the next day scientists are saying that it is bad. Coffee, wine, and avocados are a just few examples of foods or drinks that are fantastic for your health one day and then terrible the next. This constant back and forth can get tiring but in the end, it’s a part of life. But when milk’s favorite cookie gets thrown into the mix, things can get a little dicey. Read more
Sub-saharan Africa comprises the countries in the African continent that lie below the Sahara Desert. This area is vast, and one can no more generalize what characterizes cuisine in this area than one can define American food as burgers and soda. One thing is certain, however, and that is the underrepresentation of African cuisine in mainstream food journals. Commenters have noted that the topic of African food is usually inflected by a focus on politics or economics, instead of being appreciated and studied as a gustatory asset in and of itself.
I interviewed several students from the region to get a sense of what they feel characterizes sub-saharan cuisine. Emotional descriptors like “unforgettable” and “exotic” emerged while culinary observations of “starchiness” and “heartiness” were made.
The starchiness comes from the liberal use of vegetables like manioc (aka cassava), African-style yams, Indian corn, cocoyam and most famously, plantains. These starchy plants comprise the base of many meals, in the form of flour, and are grown all over the continent. Flour is boiled with water and cooked into a stiff pudding which has different names including ugali (Eastern Africa) and fufu (Western & Central Africa). Stews or soups are eaten along with the cooked flour which is shaped by hand to expertly scoop up delectable portions. For example, pounded yam is paired with egusi soup, which uses the seeds of this member of the gourd family to make highly nutritious stews. These seeds pack 30% unadulterated protein and 50% edible oils into their tiny bodies, combining deliciousness and nutrition!
When the main dish is not a starchy ball of flour, it is often jollof rice. Think of jollof rice as being to West Africa (Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea and its 13 other neighbors) to what paella is to Spain. It gets its red color from tomato purée and its interesting combination of spicy, savory and sweet flavor profile from ingredients such as sweet okra, coriander, chili paste, peppers, garlic and ginger. As with any beloved dish, it has many regional variations that use other ingredients like carrots, smoked shrimp, peas, thyme and tea-bush leaves.
While vegetables, beans and lentils remain the most popular staples in Africa, animal products are also used. More often than not, they are used more to enhance the overall flavor of meals, as opposed to being the focus of a dish. To pick a sizzling example, suya is a dish similar to the shish kebab, but more flavorful because of the spice-saturated marinade. Barbecued meat is seasoned with paprika, cayenne pepper, ginger and onions, and served alongside the main dish.
Biltong, or cured meat, is also popular in South Africa as a snack or a soup stock. Meat like beef, ostrich, chicken, shark, or game like springbok and kudu is marinated and spiced with vinegar, rock salt, brown sugar and black peppers, creating a tangy flavor. It is similar to jerky meat, but much thicker and more flavorful.
Last but not least, a comfort food that remains a firm favorite of many within and outside the African continent: fried plantains! Plantains are the longer, starchier and more calorie-dense cousins of the banana. They actually have more vitamins A and C and potassium than bananas, too. Unlike the banana, however, it is not usually eaten raw, unless it is extremely ripe. It also has a lower glycemic index and tastes less sweet, which makes it less likely to spike your blood sugar.
Plantains can be cooked in a multitude of ways, and with many different ingredients. Inventive online recipes have them baked with coconut, battered and stuffed, sliced and fried as chips, and even mashed to make cheese-guava-plantain balls. In its simplest and equally satisfying form, it is deep-fried and consumed as the main course or side dish. Don’t let its size fool you, this is one filling and highly nutritious treat.
The cuisine of sub-saharan Africa is influenced by what ingredients are available locally, as well as by the influx of foreigners from Asia (China, India, the Middle East, etc.) and from Europe (Portugal, France, Britain). There are many more outstanding dishes from the region, but this article can only introduce you to a few and hope that you will seek out more on your own. Happy eating ☺︎.
-Min Yi Tan