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Andreana Bitsis

What Thanksgiving Means To The Immigrant Experience

I am a first generation immigrant. Growing up, Thanksgiving was not always a part of my family’s celebratory calendar. My sister and I would be invited to dinners at the homes of my parents’ friends. These are friends they had made in New York: forming bonds of trust, warmth, consolation, and loyalty. My sister and I would stand around tables adorned with festive spreads and hold hands with the people who graciously welcomed us to their homes. We would take turns citing what we were thankful for, and then we would feast.

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Andreana Bitsis

Years later, I began to organize Thanksgiving dinners or brunches with my family. It is an intimate affair for us: just the four of us some years or a select few friends would be invited on others. During one of those years, after dessert, my father, in a nostalgia-induced jovial mood, shared with us the story of his journey to America. As a child, I had always known it was not the smoothest transition, physically or emotionally, as he would always spare me the exact details of his journey. But on that particular day, he shared his encounter with the friendliest South Indian family during a layover. Alone, foreign, and completely unfamiliar with the journey awaiting him, my father found himself conversing with the family. Towards the end of the conversation, they invited him to have dinner with them at the Sheraton hotel. As a complete stranger to these wonderful people, he was invited to be a part of their family– to share a meal, and to feel accepted.

“Thanksgiving is about the food, yes, but it is also about the amalgamation of feelings, emotions, and memories. In the United States, it is about honoring the bounty of so many different cultural values.”

It has been almost four decades since that moment, and if Baba could recall that memory so fondly, it is one of the most beautiful and noteworthy moments of his earlier life, and perhaps one of the more positive ones. Thanksgiving is about the food, yes, but it is also about the amalgamation of feelings, emotions, and memories. In the United States, it is about honoring the bounty of so many different cultural values. This country is a culmination of roots from a multiplicity of ethnic backgrounds. As a first-generation immigrant, it is for me, personally, about identifying with my ethnic roots nurtured in an American backdrop. In this country, we are all global citizens. This year, within weeks of one of the most pivotal elections in American history, I wanted to emphasize how much this holiday has come to epitomize all of the palettes each one of us brings to the table. Mexican nuances from kumato tomatoes and the European notes provided by the capers and mustard are an ode to the diversity of this holiday. Just like people of diverse backgrounds, these flavors come together and elevate one another– there is room at the table for all.

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Eidia Moni Amin is a Graphic Designer for Garden Collage and a veritable chef in her own right. Find a collection of her Thanksgiving recipes here

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