It’s been a while since I celebrated Thanksgiving in the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving. I was in China last year studying and the year before that visiting, so it had been three years since I had spent the day with my family.
Those two years of unconventional Thanksgivings actually gave me a much deeper appreciation for the holiday. The first year, with its meal of turkey curry and our night out at the Mongolian sticks restaurant with s’mores for dessert, brought my attention to Thanksgiving as a sharing of cultures through food.
Last year, I was celebrating in my new home with people I had known for less than three months. That NQR dinner (on the roof of a Tex-Mex restaurant on the beach) made me appreciate how, even in these circumstances so far from home, I was surrounded by people I loved.
This year, I spent the majority of my Thanksgiving break (9 consecutive days – glorious!!) in Tulsa. On Tuesday, I drove down to Dallas to spend the holidays with family; not family as in “the four of us”, but family as in “the forty-three of us”. My parents and brother stayed up in the snowy north but I opted for Texas due to proximity, number, and – let’s face it – weather.
It was a good holiday, just as Thanksgiving should be, with food and family.
I brought my own contributions for the feast – two six-packs of Tsingtao Beer and a bag of 汤圆. I should confess, I suppose, that there was another reason I chose Dallas: Asian markets! I stopped by one on the way to my aunt’s house and it was almost like walking back into the supermarket at West Gate. I wandered the aisles, noting the varieties of tofu available, until I found the frozen food aisle and its pot of gold. That’s right, 汤圆!
If you remember, tang yuan are one of my favorite Chinese foods. The English name is generally translated as Glutinous Rice Balls, which I’ll admit doesn’t sound appealing, but they are so good. They’re sticky balls of rice dough filled with sweetened sesame paste. And they’re also delicious.
So, I boiled a pot of water and dumped a whole bag of small tang yuan into it. Then, excited to share a personal favorite with my family, I invited everyone to try them.
Oh, how I wish I’d had a video camera. One by one, everyone grabbed one tang yuan on a fork and ate it. The facial expressions were ridiculous! You would have thought they were eating fish eyes or peas – both disgusting foods I have ingested!
Some people are just not open to new foods apparently. Really puts the damper on that “cultural sharing through food” thing. It also left me with several dozen tang yuan to eat by myself – when a normal serving of tang yuan is about 8. Turns out they’re a pretty heavy dessert . . . .
I’ll just think of it as stretching my stomach for Thanksgiving dinner！