Wednesday, November 22, 2017

An OMOD Thanksgiving

At VSA Texas we typically use our Thanksgiving week blog as an opportunity for the staff to share what we are most thankful for in our lives. It's a time when we get to give you, our readers, a glimpse into who we are, both at work and beyond. This year we have decided to instead turn the spotlight on four of our OMOD speakers, so they can share a part of who they are. In reading these stories, we are heartened to see that no two families celebrate Thanksgiving quite the same way, and that in such a culturally diverse nation we can still find common ground in celebrating life, family, and friends at the dinner table. Enjoy!

My Puerto Rican Thanksgiving
by Marielle Abrams

For Thanksgiving, sometimes I travel to Killeen, Texas to spend time with the Puerto Rican side of my family.

A Puerto Rican Thanksgiving is very entertaining and fast paced. When you arrive at my uncle’s house, everyone rushes to great you, they scream with joy and kiss you and hug you. They all start talking at the same time, so when we get together there are only two volumes: loud and louder. Everyone is going from English to Spanish, back and forth, at lightning speed. So, it is a bit of a juggling act to follow the conversation and things can get a bit confusing. Not only that, but the TV is always on either showing football or a Spanish “telenovela” for Grandma. Even the TV switches languages on you when you least expect it.

For the meal, we have a mixture of dishes from different cultures. There is the traditional turkey but also Puerto-Rican style roasted pork, potatoes and rice (arroz con gandules), a ton of sides and even some Mexican dishes because my uncle is married to a Mexican lady who cooks heavenly. So, for this type of meal you need a stomach for your stomach.

This kind of Thanksgiving is not for the faint of heart or a weak stomach, but it is a ton of fun.

Mexican Thanksgiving
by Renee Lopez

Growing up as a 2nd generation Mexican-American, I was fortunate to experience the lives of my Mexican grandparents. Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Mexico. My grandparents, however, assimilated into the holiday, but with a twist. We had the traditional turkey and dressing, but the dressing my Mexican grandmother made had intense flavors! Comino, sabio, cilantro, ajo, cebolla, green bell peppers... OMG, it was delicious! Because our family was so large, my grandmother made a vat of dressing. It took two people to carry it in from the car. We had two turkeys, the traditional mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce (out of the can with the ridges still on it). We never ate it because we weren't sure what to do with it, but my mother insisted on it being part of the menu because "it's supposed to be there." But no Thanksgiving would be complete in our house without beans, rice, and tortillas as side dishes. And to even consider eating any meal without salsa was unthinkable! Yep, there they were at the table placed in honor like ancient family members.

Our Mexican Thanksgiving meal did not seem odd to us. We didn't know about the green bean casserole, sweet potatoes and actual homemade cranberry sauce. We also didn't know about leftovers. In fact when I heard kids at school talk about making leftover turkey salad sandwiches, I was like "really?"

My grandparents and parents have all passed on. The new generation now buys everything already made, boxed or ordered. Beans, rice, and tortillas are no longer on the table. Thanksgiving, like everything today, is a rushed, thrown together meal. Most of it is bland, just like the holidays are to me now... but I remain, as always, grateful for the culinary experience of the blending of two cultures, joining together at one table, as it should be.

The Lopez Family gathered round the table at Thanksgiving

by Nissi Salazar

Thanksgiving in our family usually consists of my grandmother yelling at one of her children not to drop the turkey, people yelling "CAN WE PLEASE EAT!" And LOTS of people! I often spend most of my day at my house spending time with my twin sister, while she bakes one of my favorite dishes of all time, Shepherd’s Pie. My excitement to eat Shepherd’s Pie is unparalleled. Unfortunately, I dislike turkey so Thanksgiving isn't exactly my favorite holiday.

But I do love how my family gets together! I love how my cousins and I interact and how they don't treat me like the person with the disability! For example: my cousin Diego, I would have to say he is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. Why, you may ask? It's because he calls me ugly and when I ask him to do something for me, he doesn't do it. He usually just says, "get it yourself" or whines about it the entire time. Now, you might find this incredibly mean and insensitive but to me it is how I know he loves me. On many occasions Diego has been the first one to my defense so I know he doesn't tease me because he's trying to be mean; he does it because he knows how much I do not like being treated like someone with the plague.

So, even though turkey is not my favorite I still have an amazing opportunity to spend time with friends and family. That’s what the holiday is really about, right?



Pumpkin Pie
by Dave Chapple

When I was little I watched my mom cook and when I moved out I was able to tell my attendants how I like my food cooked. Like all good cooks I like to experiment and I wanted to try making pumpkin pies from a real pumpkin. My first attempt the pies tasted delicious. A few years passed, and  I got new attendants. One of my new attendants agreed to help me try making pies again for my family’s Thanksgiving get together. But, this time it didn’t go that smoothly.

My first mistake was getting a bigger pumpkin, and it was harder so it took longer to cut up and boil to get it to the right consistency. We had pumpkin leftover and we didn’t know what to do with it. So my attendant decided to put it down the garbage disposal, and that was the second mistake. The pumpkin clogged the disposal and instead of going down the pumpkin went up and got everywhere! It was like a pumpkin bomb went off.

After all that I am glad to say the pies turned out awesome and everybody loved them. But sadly I haven’t made a pumpkin pie since.

The Chapple Family gathered in front of the fireplace

What are some of your fond Thanksgiving memories and family traditions? Share them with us in the comments!

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