Thursday, November 26, 2009

An Immigrant Thanksgiving

Because we were a family of immigrants, we never got Thanksgiving quite right when I was a kid in Skokie.  It's not that we didn't want to give thanks - trust me, being a family of Holocaust Survivors welcomed to the United States post-war, there was no shortage of thanks.  The problem was the food. We just didn't understand the food.

We understood turkey. We preferred chicken, but, fine.  Turkey could be dealt with.  It was a kosher animal, after all.  No problem with the turkey.  The problem with my family were always the other dishes, like the desserts, which we grouped in our minds as not quite Jewish. 

Pumpkin pie? No. Dessert to us was only coffee cake and it was never actually sliced.  It was served the exact same way it is now:  put in the center of a table of hungry, dieting women all holding forks and, voila, ten minutes later it's gone.  Pecan pie? We were firm about this.  Absolutely the only nuts in our family were humans - all the strange inbred Jews who emigrated as one block, hairnets on their heads, frowns on their faces, purses stiffly carried from room to room, no English. I spent years not knowing whom one woman was who came to every party on my mother's side.  Finally I asked.  She was one of my aunts. 

My mother's now been in the U.S. for sixty years; we should know how to do this by now.  But today, at our Thanksgiving dinner, besides all the other stuff, here's what I saw:  Turkey, Matzah Ball soup, Challah. Is this some kind of immigrant Thanksgiving?  Or maybe we're half pilgrim and half Jewish, half American and half Lithuanian, even after all this time.  Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. Very funny, Linda. I love the bit about the only nuts in your family being the human ones with hairnets and purses.

  2. cute! thank god you didn't use my name.

  3. I told you Sandy, I'd protect your fork + cake problem. Anyway, it's every holiday, right?
    And thanks, Yolande. Too many nuts in the family = no nuts in the cake.

  4. I'm all for new traditions on Thanksgiving. In our house, we had vegetarian chili on Thursday. (We have a kosher vegetarian kitchen so turkey is a no go.) Wish we had had some challah to go with our chili, but I think my husband is the only Jewish guy within 100 miles so we would have had to make it ourselves. :)

  5. Kristen, The challah was surprisingly popular on Thanksgiving. I've never tried to bake one yet. If you have pity on your husband in your Jewishly lonely outpost, there are a lot of recipes online!