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A Different Spin on Thanksgiving

OPB | Nov. 19, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:43 p.m.

A few years ago, I was living alone and hadn’t made plans to visit my family on the east coast for Thanksgiving. I decided to invite a group of friends over and try my hand at cooking a turkey for the first time. I ended up with seven or eight people sitting elbow to elbow at my small table. Some of my guests were meeting for the first time and they quickly got to know one another over the feast. I still made everyone go around the table to say what we were thankful for (just like my family does every year). Everybody brought a side dish, which ranged from traditional cranberry sauce to Greek avgolemono soup. Every other year, I’ve found myself around a family table. While every Thanksgiving is fun (it’s one of my favorite holidays), this one stands out in my mind because it was the least traditional — both in terms of the food and the gathering itself.

Plenty of people celebrate this traditional holiday in nontraditional ways, whether it’s cooking something outside the expected turkey and potatoes or gathering with friends rather than family. One local group has made a free Thanksgiving meal for 200 people for the past 10 years now. The vegetarian Tofurky originated in Oregon and last year in 2003*, the company partnered with a Seattle soda company to make a Thanksgiving themed beverage: gravy soda.

Is there an unusual Thanksgiving that stands out in your memory? Have you ever celebrated Thanksgiving overseas, away from home or with an ad hoc group of people? Has your family ever forgone a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in favor of something different or unusual? Do you have any unconventional Thanksgiving customs — culinary or otherwise — that are a part of your meal each year? 

GUESTS

  • Britta Diettrich: General manager of Northwest Portland International Hostel, where she hosts Thanksgiving every year
  • Leslie Veenstra: Teacher and translator, celebrated Thanksgiving in The Netherlands for six years
  • Daryl Meekins: Ergonimics design engineer at Hewlett Packard, raises his own Thanksgiving turkeys
  • Ivy Manning: Food writer and author of The Adaptable Feast and The Farm to Table Cookbook
  • Amy Lindgren: Optician, hosts Thanksgiving for her friends every year
  • Austin Campbell: Biology major and Student Body Vice President at Reed College, head cook and organizer for “Sub Free” Thanksgiving

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