How Do Greek Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving?

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Roasted Turkey on whiteWhen my family came over from Greece to the United States, we were quick to adopt some of the more “American” holidays, such as Thanksgiving, which celebrates the first successful harvest feast eaten by early European settlers in America. Like most Americans, we were eager to not only have the day off, but to also embrace such a food-centric holiday. However, we weren’t so quick to adopt some of the more traditional foods. I don’t know about you, but Greek foods make their way into our American Thanksgiving menus year after year. Here’s an overview:

Turkey

We did have a roasted turkey, but if we thought we needed more meat than what a turkey would provide, we usually didn’t serve ham, we’d serve lamb! Even though pork is a popular meat in Greece, and it wasn’t as beloved as lamb. I’ve even hard of Greek families forgoing the turkey all together and eating roasted lamb instead! The point wasn’t to eat turkey; it was to be thankful to have such a great meal. Lamb was, more often than not, the crowd favorite. Here’s a recipe for leg of lamb!

Stuffing

single peeled roasted chestnut kernel with others waitingWhen I was a child, I had no idea that stuffing traditionally used bread. I always thought that it involved rice, ground meat, chestnuts, and delicately seasoned with some allspice. Find the recipe for this dish here.

It wasn’t until Middle School that I learned that “normal” stuffing was actually made from bread cubes. My family would even stuff the turkey with this creation! I always knew that Thanksgiving was arriving when the whole family would gather to peel all those roasted chestnuts.

Sides

Even though we loved sides such as mashed potatoes and squash, Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t be complete without Kalamata olives, imported feta cheese, and a big Greek salad! It seems that even when we tried to adapt to the American culture, we always needed to bring our beloved foods to the table. Besides, it simply wasn’t mealtime without plenty of fresh salad!

Pita

No Greek table would be complete without some kind of pita. The two most common are spanakopita (spinach pita) and tiropita (cheese pita). However, there are other types of pitas that would taste good at Thanksgiving, such as this kolokithopita (squash pita). These call be served as part of the main course or for an appetizer.

Vegetables

Greek cuisine has a lot of delicious vegetable dishes to choose from. Horta, or boiled greens, is a staple food at most Greek tables. It is equally as delicious served warm or cold. Other great dishes include green beans with tomatoes (fasolakia), and Greek-style stuffed eggplant.

Dips and Sauces

The nice thing about most Greek dip recipes is that they are incredibly versatile. They can be served as part of an appetizer spread, or they also make nice condiments and can accompany the meat and turkey. For example, tzatziki makes an excellent addition to the Thanksgiving meal because it accompanies meat very well. The same is true for skordalia, hummus, and other types of spreads.

Pastries

Did you serve pie at Thanksgiving, or did you serve traditional Greek desserts? I didn’t have my first piece of apple pie until I was much older, and even now, I much prefer a nice piece of baklava to a slice of apple pie. There are plenty of Greek pastries that are delicious during Thanksgiving, such as milopita, or apple cake, and kolikithopita, which is made with squash. Standard Greek pastries such as baklava, kourabedies, and koulourakia are also a great addition to the Thanksgiving table. Besides, a cup of Greek coffee really wouldn’t be complete without koulourakia? Here’s a look at some Greek dessert recipes.

In many ways, Thanksgiving is a holiday that is perfectly aligned with the Greek way of life. Family, food, and a thankful heart are three things that are at the center of life. Therefore, it has been an easy holiday for Greek immigrants to adopt. On the other hand, it’s much easier to adopt them when familiar foods are on the dinner table.

Each family has their own traditions, and for Greek-Americans, these traditions usually take traditional elements from American cuisine and merge them with their beloved Greek favorites. I can’t even remember the last time I didn’t have a piece of baklava for dessert!

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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