The best Thanksgiving side dish recipes are full of memory

Roast turkey is not and never has been my passion, but I have grown to love Thanksgiving. As I adjusted to life in the United States as...


Roast turkey is not and never has been my passion, but I have grown to love Thanksgiving.

As I adjusted to life in the United States as a young immigrant from Nigeria, I felt compelled to master the spoken and unspoken ceremonies surrounding the American vacation. Corn Thanksgiving is perhaps the only American cultural tradition that seemed perfectly familiar to me. In Nigeria, a country with several growing seasons, regional harvest festivals are celebrated throughout the year. Historically, anything that was ripe and ready was welcomed in many forms: in soups and stews such as afang soup, and in porridge such as asaro and ubek, to name a few.

My Thanksgiving embrace is truly an embrace from the people I celebrated it with. I have lived on a continent separate from my parents for over two decades, so my friends and chosen family really helped shape my idea of ​​vacations.

During my early years in the United States, I spent Thanksgiving at my friend Charlene’s in Baltimore, where I worked alongside her in the kitchen, preparing the elaborate evening meal. At first glance, these early dinners seemed to embody a simple set of customs. The food varied only slightly from year to year and the timing was about the same. But, over time, I started to see the deeply open and adaptive nature of vacations.

The dinners were an opportunity to share time with loved ones, but also to learn from them. During Thanksgivings in Maryland, Georgia, Alabama and New York, I have often asked my hosts to share what makes their traditions special, and I collected the recipes that stood out to me. These dishes have made their way into my own celebrations, so my vacation is one of the fondest culinary memories.

Since then, I have created memories with my own little family: my husband and my daughter. Two years ago, we spent Thanksgiving on a ranch in West Texas. We had tamales, chilaquiles, Christmas lima beans, a smoked turkey we bought from a supermarket, and a pork shoulder we smoked ourselves. We also had a tray full of jollof rice infused with Hatch Green Peppers.

In a way, I’m like many Americans who have moved, incorporating a Louisiana specialty or a New Mexico delicacy into their traditions. For me, I love a good pan-fried cornbread, with the flavor of toasted corn and a firm texture. It’s perfect with just a layer of soft butter or used as a base for a salad dressing – with sausage, celery, and lots of herbs, like the one first served to me at Charlene’s house in Baltimore.

Or my mother-in-law Sue’s citrus-glazed sweet potato, which she’s refined endlessly in her upstate New York kitchen. They add a tangy sweetness to the holiday meals we share.

These are such remarkable accompaniments that they perhaps fall into my favorite category of traditional Thanksgiving dishes: those that are memorable and delicious every other day of the year.

Receipts: Citrus Glazed Sweet Potatoes | corn bread | Cornbread salad dressing

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