America’s Food Holiday
If people and cultures are bound by their food traditions, Thanksgiving is the unifying holiday that links all Americans to a common heritage. We may modify the menu to include ethnic favorites such as salsa or sushi, or incorporate new culinary trends, like brines or rubs. But the tradition of turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, are imprinted in our taste memories and are the comfort foods we crave at Thanksgiving.
Years ago, living in a high-rise apartment in New York City, I stepped out Thanksgiving Day to run an errand. I was greeted by the most delicious aromas in the hallway of my floor, and floor by floor, through my descent in the elevator. Turkey was roasting in my kitchen, and in the kitchens of others in my apartment building. A classic Thanksgiving feast would be consumed by most of us on West 14th Street, throughout Manhattan, New York State and the rest of the United States, including Hawaii, on the other side of the Pacific.
I was struck by the universality of this food tradition and how almost all Americans — whether in an elegant Park Avenue dining room or a soup kitchen downtown — would be enjoying a similar meal on one specific day. This would not be so unusual in a country with a homogeneous population, but how amazing to find such a meal served in a country where everybody, except Native Americans, originally came from somewhere else.
In our family, our tradition is to have my mom’s Portuguese Stuffing. Mom got the recipe from our neighbor, Mrs. Victorine, and adapted it to her liking. It was our family’s Thanksgiving favorite.
Mom’s Portuguese Turkey Stuffing
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Turkey giblets, washed and chopped
1 pound linguisa (Portuguese sausage), chopped
4 cups chopped onions (about 3 large)
1 cup diced celery
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 long loaf white sandwich bread (1 ½ pounds) cubed and set out to air dry the day before
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1 large can (6 ounces drained weight) pitted olives, sliced
1 jar (4 ounces) pimentos, sliced
Heat oil in a large, deep pot and add giblets and sausage. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 7 minutes. Add onions, celery and parsley and cook about 5 more minutes until vegetables are wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large roasting pan or other deep pan, put the bread cubes and add the eggs. Toss to coat evenly. Add the sausage mixture and mix well.
Cook the stuffing on the stovetop about 5 minutes, add pimento and olives and cook 5 minutes more. Put the stuffing into a 10- by 13-inch baking dish, cover with foil, and bake in a preheated 350-degree F oven for about 30 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 165 to 179 degrees F, Serve with roast turkey.