When West Encounters East
An American-Chinese Thanksgiving Dinner
As an international student from China, I had never experienced an American Thanksgiving meal, although we do have our own holiday equivalent to Thanksgiving in China. Luckily, my host family invited me to their home for dinner.
Besides my excitement about the American Thanksgiving dinner, I wanted to incorporate Chinese elements into the dinner to make it more fun and unique. Our meal preparation began early in the morning, and we started by preparing the turkey. It was my first time seeing a full-sized turkey and experiencing removing giblets from the turkey. Although it was a little bit gross, it was also a lot of fun because it gave me a great opportunity to get hands-on experience with preparing animals for meals.
As we got closer to our goal of a wonderful meal, we started to prepare everything else: mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cheese bread, and my personal suggestion: Chinese dumplings. While my host family was making the traditional Western dishes, I started to plan for dumplings, which required a lot of work for the two main parts: the dumpling wraps and the stuffings. The dumpling wraps were made up of flour dough that required very meticulous handcraft. I rolled out the dough, cut them evenly into small chunks, and rolled each chunk into the round-shaped wraps as the final dumpling wraps.
The next step was to make the stuffing that contained pork, Chinese cabbages, green onions, and various other ingredients which are the secret to the savory flavor of dumplings. I minced the pork, cut the ingredients into tiny pieces, mixed them together, and added light and dark soy sauce, salt, sesame oil, and five spice seasoning. The stuffing was then finished, emitting the familiar savory dumpling smell.
Finally, I completed the dumplings by putting a bit of stuffing onto the round wraps, folding the dough into frills, and forming the semi-moon shape. The last step was to pan-fry the dumplings, which turned them into the potstickers that are commonly found on the menus in numerous Chinese restaurants. Accompanying the dumplings was the dipping sauce, which included vinegar, soy sauce, and a bit of five-spice seasoning to enhance the flavor.
As the whole process of dumpling-making came to an end, my host family finished making most of their food items as well. At the table, we all marveled at how the Western and Eastern food cultures could combine to form such a spectacle. The kids jumped up and down, enthusiastically yelling, “Yeah, dumplings! I’ve been craving for them for long!” Exchanging the food items together, we felt warm-hearted about how blessed we were to be dining with each other and enjoying our “When West Encounters East” dinner.
The Asian savory soy sauce and the Western sweet sugar both stimulated our taste buds, reminding us of how wonderful and unique our Thanksgiving dinner was. I thanked my host family for being so hospitable to me in guiding me through my life at Reed and in a foreign country and also being open to including new elements in our dinner. The weather got very chilly, but our hearts were warm and blessed.