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Thanksgiving......With A Twist

Thanksgiving......With A Twist

Thanksgiving is a beloved celebration day. Of all the holidays during the calendar year, it holds a special place in the American heart. Not only is it the official start of the Holiday Season, it is also a wonderful four days off of work, with a healthy dose of family time, amazing food and a general attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving doesn’t leave anyone out. It is the most inclusive celebration we have, allowing everyone in America to celebrate regardless of background or beliefs. When Americans find themselves abroad, either for a short stint or an extended stay, when Thanksgiving comes around, they make a point of celebrating. They even invite their new friends in the host country, and proudly serve the full celebratory menu. It’s a cultural touchstone.

It would seem that altering the traditional American Thanksgiving meal in any way would be a no-no, especially for Americans living abroad. But what if these slight alterations made the feast better? And what if Americans at home added a few nontraditional ingredients to their Thanksgiving table as a tribute to a world without borders? America is a melting pot after all, so what better way to demonstrate this than to inject a little flexibility into the Thanksgiving menu? A “turkeyless” Thanksgiving might be too much to ask at the outset, but what about working with some of the sides? That might be the best place to start, with minimal uproar from traditionally minded guests!

While the chefs are in the kitchen finishing up the main Thanksgiving feast, as guests arrive, it’s the perfect time to introduce some nontraditional appetizers or snacks. How about serving some exotic cheeses from around the world, (think Manchego and Camembert), spicy Indonesian cashews, or Italian salami? Those would be simply divine on their own or on a cracker or baguette. For a twist on the traditional cocktail, how about adding some all-natural botanical mixers for rum, gin, or vodka? For the martini lover, stuffed olives from Spain are sure to be a hit. Guests will be surprised by the bursts of flavor and international flair.

When incorporating new and interesting ingredients to the main spread, make sure to keep some of the traditional elements. Remember, you don’t want mutiny before the turkey is carved! There is always a wide range of vegetable options at the Thanksgiving table. How about adding Mexican cheese to cauliflower? That will give it depth of flavor that is hard to achieve with this healthy but generally bland vegetable. How about mixing in some garlic and truffle oil to the mashed potatoes? Or even a bit of mustard flavored with rosemary and honey? Mashed potatoes (and sweet potatoes for that matter), offer a blank canvas for adventurous cooks. Who could forget cranberry sauce? Instead of opening a can and sliding it into a bowl, (complete with the tin ridge impressions on the outside!), how about adding some French and Spanish gourmet preserves to the sweet selections? Cranberry doesn’t have to be the only option.

The star of the table, the roast turkey, doesn’t have to be eliminated or drastically altered, but a few complementary protein options might be welcome. Some Spanish Iberico ham offers the melt-in-your-mouth flavor profile that is in stark contrast to the traditional taste of poultry. A duck foie gras can also add silky smoothness to the Thanksgiving bite, holding up well against any flavor competitor. Imagine a combined bite of turkey, foie gras, Iberico ham, and stuffing all at once! That is one amazing international bite. We can’t forget the salad. Instead of the traditional oil and vinegar, surprise your guests with flavored vinegars from Europe and the finest Spanish olive oil in existence. Your romaine will never be the same!

So as you can see, if you keep an open mind, you can give your Thanksgiving meal a twist and start some new traditions. Perhaps just incorporate one or two suggestions at first. Don’t overwhelm your guests with an entirely new menu at once – unless you think they will be open to that. Even though you may be met initially with resistance, once tasted, these new, bright flavors will convert even the most rigid Thanksgiving purist. You don’t even have to warn them, you can just do it and see how it goes.

After the Thanksgiving meal, and before everyone takes a nap, it’s nice to reflect on what the celebration means. The opportunity to share a special meal, spend quality time with those we love and do so in a comfortable setting. These are all things to be truly grateful for. Food is to be enjoyed and savored. Loved ones are to be cherished. Home is where the heart is. When you add international elements to the traditional table, it only adds to the celebration. So this Thanksgiving, dare to try something new. Boldly give your Thanksgiving meal a twist and then bask in the universal appreciation of your guests.