"I’m not a fan of Thanksgiving, but I am a fan of family."
Asides from being the one holiday that definitively represents the day when a gang of punk ass pilgrims pulled a drive-by and landjacked our indigenous brothers and sisters, Thanksgiving reminds me of my Mama Bear.
My all-time favorite Thanksgiving memory would have to be when my Mother accidentally turned our turkey dinner…completely pink.
If anyone knows my Mother, knows that she loves to experiment with food. Whether it’s with noodle soups, spring rolls, or coconut milk desserts, she’s game to put her own creative spin on any dish.
Growing up, I will admit that I was a bit of a picky eater. I saw a lot of my white friends eating fun stuff like Lunchables, meat loaf, and mac & cheese, which made me question, “Is my Mom’s cooking normal?”
I would always make unreasonably outlandish requests for her to make us something “American.” She never did once hesitate. She searched far and wide through cookbooks and asking her co-workers for recipes. When she actually placed the finished dish in front of me, I still sensed a difference. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was never satisfied. It wasn’t like how my friends’ Moms made it.
I’ve come to understand that it wasn’t my Mom at all, but it was my own identity crisis and my hidden desire for our culture to be normalized. I was so caught up in trying to fit in that I didn’t appreciate the effort that my Mother constantly puts forth to take care of our family.
To be the matriarchal glue of our household, while holding down a 9 to 5 job and all, she’s a superhero.
For all of my non-Asian friends who don't know what “Char Siu” is, it’s barbecue pork that is marinated in honey, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, spices, and a dash of food coloring that radiates a deep maroon. Mom thought it would be an interesting take on the traditional turkey by marinating it in char siu sauce…without telling anybody. When she put it in the oven, she imagined the finished product looking red like the OG char siu found at our local Chinese butcher shops. Hilariously, it came out bright pink!
Like Kirby pink.
Like an episode of “My Little Pony” pink.
Like a shade of pink that can only be found at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in 2003.
It was such a jarring image to see an iconic dish as the Thanksgiving turkey turned into this 80s style, neon-colored monstrosity. It was off-putting to look at, and on the inside I thought to myself, “Well, there goes Thanksgiving.”
But you know what? It was freaking delicious.
I remember it being lightly sweet and mouth-wateringly savory. The texture was so tender that it melted upon contact. Thinking about it today makes my brain discombobulate with sensory overload and my belly grumble with a grizzly hunger.
Thanksgiving means different things for different people. Thanksgiving, for me, means Mom. It means a woman who did a thankless job her entire life with a smile on her face. It means a woman who set an example for thinking outside of the status quo for her children. It means a woman who was proud of her heritage and her cuisine.
This one is for Mom, for teaching me to not only eat properly and well (with the right portions and ingredients), but also for teaching me to enjoy food in all of its colors.