I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving – or any other major American holidays, for that matter. The closest I got to having a Christmas tree was when I drew one on a large construction paper and taped it to the wall in our hallway. I kid you not.
Of course, a lot of it had to do with the fact my parents didn’t know how to adopt these American traditions into their everyday Indian lifestyle. But a part of it also had to do with the typical immigrant life struggle: saving money from unnecessary expenses. And a turkey was definitely an unnecessary expense – especially when you’re raised vegetarian.
Times have changed now. I married into a family of carnivores and Thanksgiving-enthusiasts. And as any typical Indian family, our spread is filled with a mixture of both “traditional” Thanksgiving dishes, including mashed potatoes and corn, and also Indian ones like chicken curry and raita. So it got me thinking, what are some easy ways to really infuse and support South Asian brands into our Thanksgiving celebrations?
There are three simple ways I could think of:
Follow recipes from cookbooks – I know, cookbooks may seem like ancient artifacts in this day and age when bloggers (and even chefs themselves) regularly share recipes on Instagram (for free!). But if you truly realized the amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into publishing a book, you would realize what a service you’re doing by buying these books. While there are plenty to choose from, some notable ones are:
Indian-ish – This book is a tribute to the author’s mom's “Indian-ish” cooking—a trove of easy to make hybrid recipes like “Roti Pizza” and “Quinoa Kheer.”
Milk and Cardamom – I promise you that if you make the Gulab Jamun Cake from this book, not a single person will complain about the missing Apple Pie. Check out this and other recipes like Sesame Seed Brittle and Bourbon Biscuits, or Mango Lassi French Macarons, and see how you too, can infuse every creation with the flavors of our heritage.
Healthy Indian Cookbook – Written by a mother daughter duo, this book lives up to its title and features the classic dishes you grew up eating, but with a modern healthy twist on it, like Quino Upma and a dairy free “butter” chicken.
Use their ingredients – thanks to these products created by chefs, you can totally fake it till you make it:
Chef Palak – she recently launched an Indian Curry Flavor Cube, incorporating her love for Indian food with tradition spices in an easy to use format. Drop it in hot water and/or oil for flavoring meat, vegetables and plant-based proteins. You can add coconut milk and voila, you Have a curry in minutes.
Brooklyn Delhi – a staple in any Indian household is achaar and Taco Bell sauce packets. And chances are, by the end of the night at Thanksgiving, both will be out for consumption. Check out the collection of condiments and sauces from chef and cookbook author, Chitra Agrawal.
Brightland – When is the last time you used olive oil? Chances are, at least within a week. This company, founded by a South Asian female entrepreneur, takes pride in producing olive oil that’s absolutely free of filler and artificial preservatives, and 100% plant-based, vegan, gluten free and cruelty-free.
Diaspora Co – Here to disrupt the spice trade, and source India's freshest, heirloom, and single-origin spices, directly from their partner farms, this brand brings you the best turmeric, cardamom and chillies your spice rack ever did see.
Indulge in their drinks – Chances are, you’re likely sipping on one of the three W’s: whiskey, wine or water if you’re surrounded by a bunch of desis. I have nothing to offer in any of those categories but here are some brands, founded by South Asians, that may come in handy for those early bird Black Friday shopping sprees:
Pop & Bottle – A great on-the-go pure, organic almond lattes using wholesome, simple ingredients and nothing else. Available in six flavors including vanilla and mocha.
Chaibox – It’s the chai you grew up drinking, now available in a variety of loose leaf tea blends. With names likes “Hill Station” and “Punjaban Party,” it might be just the thing you did to wake up and shop till you drop.
One Stripe Chai – For those lazy ones, this chai concentrate is all you need: just mix with milk of your choice and serve hot or over ice. It’s made with simple ingredients like honey, jaggery and ginger so you can be sure you’re drinking chai, and not “chai tea.”
Coffee Sheikh – The founders behind this brand have teamed up with remote farmers in Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan who harvest coffee beans and have been following the ancient coffee-harvesting tradition in their countries.
So there you have it. You can take a girl outta India but can’t take India out of a girl. I will forever be trying to incorporate our culture and promote South Asian founders in any way I can.