SILVER SPRING – At CASA de Maryland, the Thanksgiving turkey will be seasoned “a lo latino” this week, while recent Vietnamese immigrant Hunv Nguyen expects his first American turkey to include some spices from home — “chili pepper, onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger.”
Whether they have been here for generations or just a few days, most Marylanders will sit down to give thanks Thursday for the good fortune in their lives. But many of the newcomers will bring their own flavor to the meal.
“I’ve heard about Thanksgiving, but I’ve never experienced it,” said Ignatius Etekwene, who arrived in Burtonsville from Cameroon in June.
He remembers reading about the Indians and Pilgrims as a boy in Cameroon, but will enjoy the holiday for the first time this year with his mother and sisters.
“We have plenty to celebrate,” said Etekwene, who said his family will have turkey as well as Cameroonian dishes — rice with vegetables, fried plantains and cassava flan.
Felicita Enang, who arrived from Cameroon last December, is not too fond of turkey and is not sure what cranberry sauce is, but is looking forward to her first Thanksgiving nonetheless.
“I will do Cameroon food but turkey — I don’t know if I can eat turkey,” said Enang, who lives in Takoma Park.
She said she may prepare beef, pork or goat instead for her husband and four children.
Soven Tun, who emigrated from Cambodia in 1972, said his wife had to learn how to make a traditional American turkey from their daughter after they moved here.
“A lot of people they don’t get used to turkey and they use chicken,” said Tun, who lives in Silver Spring. “We try to do American traditional food but at the same time we serve Cambodian food.”
“We always enjoy a celebration,” Tun said. “We enjoy every holiday.”
Hyun Kim, who moved to Ellicott City from Korea five years ago, celebrates two thanksgivings: The Korean one in August, when her family gives thanks to their ancestors and has fried pork and beef, grilled fish, rice, soup and fruit, and the American one in November, when they have turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pie.
Maribel Gomez came from Mexico to join her husband in Silver Spring just this month. When her Guatemalan friend who is making Thanksgiving dinner told her that people here eat turkey to celebrate the holiday, Gomez suggested her mother’s favorite recipe for turkey “barbacoa,” steamed in a large pot with beef and pork and eaten with white rice or noodles.
But she thinks her friend will probably go with a whole turkey in the oven. Gomez said she has also had it this way at parties in Mexico, stuffed with ground beef, pork or vegetables.
CASA de Maryland expects at least 200 people for an early Thanksgiving feast on Wednesday. In addition to the turkey seasoned “a lo latino,” they will dine on white rice, salad and corn tortillas, said Jacinta Carvallo, who is active with the immigrant-aid organization.
CASA de Maryland will also celebrate Thanksgiving by holding an “almuerzo bailable,” said Silvia Navas, the senior manager of employment, because what is a party without dancing?
Nguyen, who left his native Vietnam with his wife and two children in March to come to Silver Spring, said his wife will try to cook a turkey for the first time in her life.
“She never touched it before,” he said. “We have another way to cook it. The same American way with some other seasoning — chili pepper, onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger.”
But while the food on their plates may be different, the sentiment is the same.
“This really big, big holiday of America,” Nguyen said. “Now I live here and I learn about that. I would like to join that day.”
-30- CNS 11-23-04