When I, an American, see a big ol’ Thanksgiving feast spread on the table, it makes me salivate. It’s a feast I spend weeks looking forward to. I think that’s probably true for most of my countrymen.
But to my Chinese friends, Thanksgiving is…blah.
We’ve learned through several attempts that the beloved American meal, which has a surprisingly standard menu, even accounting for regional or family variations, is a very anticlimatic, ho-hum affair for our Chinese friends.
For one thing, the feast looks very…pale.
The color spectrum looks like you took home the paint chip cards to decide on colors for a hotel lobby. You get to choose between Turkey Tan, Stuffing Beige, Mashed Potato Off-White, Dinner Roll Golden Tan, or Gravy Greige. There are a few dishes that stray from the constraints of off-white, but they’re subdued due to long cook times, like the green beans and sweet potatoes. And even those are usually topped with something (mushroom gravy & fried onions; broiled marshmallows) to stay with the tan theme.
For another thing, all the flavors are really…bland.
When a small dollop of cranberry sauce is the only bright, exciting flavor of the entire meal, it’s definitely the level of “recovering from a stomach bug or major surgery” level of bland.
And, perhaps most off-putting to our Chinese friends, it all tastes really….sweet.
I know, I know, gravy isn’t sweet. But turkey is a sweet-ish meat, especially with cranberry sauce on it. Sweet potatoes are sweet, and then they get sweeter with the addition of marshmallows. Rolls are considered sweet in China, and the list goes on. In my family, there’s Jell-O at every Thanksgiving. Sweet. I know another family that always has cinnamon rolls (yes, during dinner). Very sweet. And if all that isn’t enough, we have a giant dessert spread after the meal. Not just one piece of pie, folks, but a small piece of everything that everyone brought, which generally means pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, and on and on. Gag-level sweet for Chinese friends.
All in all, we’ve learned that Thanksgiving is not the right meal to showcase American cuisine. It’s not worth the major effort of cooking all that fabulous stuff just to underwhelm them. Our Chinese friends have been way more impressed when we make pizza or tacos. We’ll stick with inviting them over for meals like that when we want to treat them to something special.
But that’s okay. More turkey and stuffing for us!