Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This week's column...

Thanks for giving
me so many choices

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 11:55 AM CST

Taste bud travels Emily Parrino

Growing up with Chinese, German and Swedish relatives has always been fun and a little confusing. My mom’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from Canton, the province where Hong Kong is located. My dad’s side of the family, many generations back, came from Germany and Sweden.

When my parents and I stand in line at a store, the cashier often thinks we’re separate customers. And I regularly mark the “other” bubble when filling out the ethnicity question on a form because there’s no Asian-Caucasian choice.

But growing up multiracial had plenty of perks — like regular trips to Chicago’s Chinatown and Andersonville neighborhoods for dim sum or potato pancakes. Along with the food adventures, my family gave me an adventurous appetite for food. Whenever my parents travel, they seek out the region’s specialty. Vacations, I’ve learned, are for finding the best foods a place has to offer, and buying inordinate amounts of them.

Naturally, holidays in my family center on a smorgasbord of everyone’s favorite foods.

For the last decade, the Thanksgiving holiday hub has been my Aunt Susie Wong’s house; where sticky rice, deep fried shrimp chips, and turkey drenched in a soy sauce marinade are standard. Chinese barbecued pork and crunchy won tons filled with crab are equally festive in our family.

Beginning to think this meal is a little unorthodox? Just wait. No tasty treat is out of season or off-limits in our minds. At our Thanksgiving, an extra cheesy lasagna and a bucket of KFC for the kids’ table are not uncommon.

The Wong Thanksgiving also involves plenty of pre-meal munchies. Potato chips, cheese curls, bacon-wrapped cocktail franks and spinach dip are ready and waiting so grazing can begin well before and continue long after the turkey is carved.

Though my clan craves an unconventional variety, we’d feign turn away the traditional staples. Ham, stuffing and both sweet and plain mashed potatoes are welcome at our table, as are Jell-O salads in several shades. My mom and I like to bring roasted autumn vegetables and a spinach salad with warm bacon dressing.

After we’ve eaten until we think we couldn’t possibly begin dessert, Aunt Susie will insist we try just a tiny sliver — from each of four or five pies. Then she cracks out the early Christmas cookies from several different tins and buckets. Coffee, Chinese tea and soda pop chase it all down. We leave languid from laughter and drowsy from digestion, but alert enough to take home a sack of our favorite leftovers.

Emily Parrino is a New Era copy editor. Her column runs once and month. Tell her about your family’s Thanksgiving traditions at

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I savored every word. :)

truly a fine piece, my friend!