Hook families’ Thanksgiving foods and traditions

Thanksgiving is an American tradition, but at a school as diverse as Riverside the holiday is celebrated, or not celebrated, in many different ways. Our newsroom is a cross-section of our school community, and to each member of our staff a Thanksgiving meal is a window into our family’s culture. Here are some of our favorite traditions:

Jacqueline Larios Dominguez:

Jacqueline Larios Dominguez with her grandmother. Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Larios Dominguez.

Thanksgiving feels like a get together for me and my family. My family eats tamales and pozole for the holiday. Tamales come from Mexico, where my parents were raised. My aunt also makes pozole which is like soup. This soup contains chicken cilantro and other vegetables. These foods mean family to me, which is very important to me because it reminds me of where I come from and where my family comes from. 

Sadie Irby:

My family celebrates Thanksgiving in a very deep southern way, with jello salad.

We normally have both sweet and savory varieties at Thanksgiving. The sweeter variety has cream, cottage cheese, fruits, and a strong artificial flavoring. The savory version has cottage cheese and nuts.

I am pesceratarin so I don’t eat gelatin, but even when I wasn’t I would never partake in this tradition. I never liked jello and the idea of mixing ingredients like cheese in it makes me gag just thinking about it. Despite that, people from the deep south seem to love it, so every year I expect to see our family’s traditional sweet orange flavored jello salad on the Thanksgiving table.

My mother is a German/Cherokee. Her father is a German immigrant that was adopted by Americans living in Saudi Arabia after the war and her mother’s side has Cherokee Native roots. She grew up in the deep south so she shares a lot of my fathers culture and experience but Thanksgiving is not something her side can celebrate in the same way that my fathers side celebrates it. My grandfather seems to honor the idea of being ‘a true American’ but with my grandma being fully aware of where the holiday originates from, they celebrate the holiday differently. Though they still eat delicious food and say what they are thankful for, they also add their personal identity.

Isaac Janiak Stein:

For as long as I can remember, people I had never met before have joined my family around the table. Friends and family always join us, but every year my parents also invite people they know who don’t have a place to go for the holiday. Be it a group of their graduate students who couldn’t go home, or a friend of a friend who had nowhere to go, it is always special to share a meal with someone new, knowing that they don’t have to eat alone.

Tobias Rangel:

Toby’s family often drinks Guaraná, a Brazilian soda, at their Thanksgiving meal. Photo courtesy of Tobias Rangel.

Thanksgiving isn’t that special for my family. All of us are from Brazil, a country where Thanksgiving is not celebrated. While for many people Thanksgiving is a big holiday where extended families gather, for me, it’s a day for my direct family and I to eat some food. Sometimes it even feels a bit lonely, knowing all my friends are with their whole family, and I’m just having dinner with my parents and sister. Instead of having the classic Thanksgiving dinner, we mix some of those traditional dishes with some Brazilian dishes, and make our very own special meal. We eat ham, cornbread, mac and cheese, and potatoes, but leave out turkey, gravy, and stuffing. Instead of turkey, we eat chicken or steak, much more common meats for Brazilians, and sometimes a black bean stew called “feijoada.” Drinks include anything from lemonade to a Brazilian soda called “Guarana.” The mix of cultures in our dinner is special to me, as it represents the mix of cultures I go through every day.

Eden Mae Richman:

Thanksgiving is very important to my family, because we’re Jewish and this is the only national holiday we get to celebrate with the rest of the country. We keep Kosher, so months in advance we have to try to track down a Kosher turkey. Most stores don’t carry Kosher meat, especially specialty items like a whole turkey, so sometimes we end up eating chicken instead. Another aspect of keeping Kosher is that we don’t mix meat and dairy, but my olive oil and margarine mashed potatoes taste just like the real stuff

Gisselle Rivera-Roman:

My family tends to eat “panes rellenos” (also known as “panes con pollo”), a Salvadorian dish that many make for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other fall and winter special occasions.

This meal contains bread (called bolillos) filled with stewed chicken, and vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, radishes, tomato, and potatoes. Panes con pollo are personalized; everyone customizes them based on their preference. They are delicious, but what makes it taste the best is the seasoning added to the chicken and vegetables when cooked.

Other people make “panes con pavo,” which has turkey instead of chicken, to go along with the thanksgiving theme. 

These dishes require extensive preparation, from cooking the chicken and blending vegetables, to the long wait for everything to cook up together, but in the end it is worth it because tastes amazing!

Sadie Allen:

Sadie uses her grandma’s mac and cheese recipe for Thanksgiving. Photo by: Sadie Allen.

Every Thanksgiving my family makes the traditional thanksgiving meal. Turkey, collard greens, cornbread or stuffing, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, rice, gravy, etc. My favorite dish is macaroni and cheese. It is very good and that is pretty much all I get when I go back for seconds, thirds, and even fourths. For the past few years I have been making it using my grandma’s recipe.

Into a bowl, I combine boiled macaroni noodles, milk, seasoning, lots of cheese, and a secret ingredient. I then pour the mixture into a large cooking dish and cover in more cheese and red pepper flakes. I let it cook in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Collin Phillips:

Every year on Thanksgiving, my grandma bakes a chocolate layer cake for our family.

The cake has 6 layers of chocolate and 6 thin layers of classic yellow cake. It’s been a tradition in my family for as long as we can remember. The recipe was passed down from my great aunt Mary Lilly. I can’t share too much, as its a recipe that we keep in the family.

Whenever we gather for thanksgiving, everyone brings main dishes and sides, but we don’t even need to worry about desserts because we all just want the layer cake. The layer cake isn’t just a Thanksgiving tradition. Every year on both my brother and I’s birthdays, my grandma brings us a layer cake when she visits. She always asks what we want her to bring, but the answer is the same every time.

Jaden Butler:

No matter where I am, I will always have ham or turkey, then, collard greens that represent us giving thanks for having enough money to get us what we need in life. 

The beans aren’t a main dish, they’re a side. This represents the importance of little things to our family, because everything has value, like spare change and good luck pennies. I would have to say that my favorite thanksgiving dish is the turkey that my mother would make.

Piper Winton:

Piper’s grandma poses. Piper always makes rolls with her grandma for the meal. Photo courtesy of Piper Winton.

Ever since I can remember my sister and I have spent all of Thanksgiving day at my grandparents house, heading over as early as possible to “help” them get ready. 

Although we normally spend the day playing basketball in the yard or watching the food being made, we have always helped my grandma make rolls. We sit on the kitchen counter while my grandma puts them in the oven laughing with her and recalling memories from our childhood. After dinner we always walk around the neighborhood while my grandma sings “Swinging on a Star” by Bill Crosby.

Even as we get older, this has always stayed consistent, and I know that every year I can count on this special time with my grandma. 

My Great Grand Mother’s Yeast Rolls – Parker House Style:

Total: 2 hr 45 min


1 1/2 cups milk

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for brushing

1/2 cup sugar

1 package active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

6 cups all-purpose flour


Place milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and sugar and let cool. Dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit until foamy. Combine milk mixture, eggs, yeast, salt, and 1/2 of the flour and mix until smooth by hand. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until a smooth ball forms.

Remove from the bowl and knead by hand on a floured surface for about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 60 to 70 minutes. On a floured surface, punch down the dough and shape into balls.  Flatten a bit, put a pat of butter on the surface and fold in half over the butter piece. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover again and let rise until doubled, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven 350 degrees F.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter before serving.

Dunya Omar:

I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. So during the Thanksgiving break, I usually do what I normally do on a regular day which is doing work that needs to be done like school work and chores, doing something fun like sketching and drawing, or relaxing by just sitting on the couch to watch TV and basically doing nothing.

But sometimes I do wonder what it’s like to celebrate Thanksgiving, and what it means to people. When I hear people talk about how they celebrate and spend the holiday days traveling to meet with grandparents, aunts, uncles etc. and eat dinner together, it makes me long to spend time with my family that live very far away that I haven’t seen in-person for years.

No matter how you celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving from The Hook!

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