In our house, Thanksgiving was an Armenian holiday — and so were all the rest

Kalajian dinner party, 1960s

Like any other American family’s table, ours overflowed on Thanksgiving — and a golden-brown turkey was always the centerpiece. 

But my mother never made anything without adding an Armenian twist: Our turkey was stuffed not with bread and chestnuts but with lamb and rice.

It was typical of our holiday meals — and plenty of every-day ones — that both the old world and new shared the table.

In fact, Mom almost always served two complete holiday menus, one Armenian and one American. Anyone who didn’t want the Armenian stuffing could have his turkey with mashed potatoes and a side of broccoli. 

I didn’t see the point of bothering with such things as long as Mom was also serving her steaming-hot kufteh with home-made madzoon as cold and rich as anything Ben or Jerry ever dreamed up.

Naturally, dessert included paklava,  Armenian walnut cakeapricot pie and piles of Mom’s flaky, buttery Dikranagertsi lavash. 

Leftovers — everybody’s favorite part of Thanksgiving! — also got the Armenian treatment. There was turkey soup, but with egg and lemon. And turkey keshkeg, which I didn’t much appreciate then because it reminded me of oatmeal except with the taste of cumin instead of sugar.

What wonderful memories! 

Our holiday menu this year is still a work in progress as I write this, but it certainly won’t be as ambitious as Mom’s. The meal will be still be special, however, because of the company who will share it.

We wish all of you a wonderful day. Even if you don’t share the tradition of this most American holiday, we can all be thankful for any opportunity to break bread with the ones we love.

Happy Thanksgiving!
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  1. vignette design November 24, 2010 at 5:31 am

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    You reminded me of how my mother-in-law always mixed in Armenian food with the traditional holiday food too. We always had dolma for starters and of course rice pilaf was a mainstay! For Christmas, always lamb shish kebob. Bouregs and baklava too!

  2. mariamjon December 1, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Armenian Thanksgiving is always OVER THE TOP!
    Amerigatsi's can't even compete!
    We do all of the Amergatsi geragoors, and then always the Hyegagan Hamov food too! Cold Dolmas, Basturma, Baneer, Hamov Pilaf, Kuftas, Tahn, and Souberags! There's also Turkey Herisah the next day!
    Kheldge Amerigatsi's.
    They have no idea…….


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