Who wants to experiment for Thanksgiving dinner? Washingtonians Jennifer Gao and Charles Duan wanted a D.C. meal and they were undeterred.

Who wants to experiment for Thanksgiving dinner? Washingtonians Jennifer Gao and Charles Duan wanted a D.C. meal and they were undeterred.

Tired of cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a stodgy turkey centerpiece?

No need to fret.

We’re serving up some delicious local takes of classic Thanksgiving recipes with the hosts of WAMU’s food podcast “Dish City.”

Produced by Julie Depenbrock



  • 12:18:06

    KOJO NNAMDITired of cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and a stodgy turkey centerpiece? No need to fret. It's almost Thanksgiving, and we're serving up some delicious local takes on classic Thanksgiving recipes. Joining us to discuss this are the hosts of Dish City, a WAMU podcast series that explores city change through D.C.'s most iconic foods. Co-hosts are here, Ruth Tam, Patrick Fort, welcome.

  • 12:18:29

    RUTH TAMHi, Kojo.

  • 12:18:30


  • 12:18:30

    NNAMDIRuth, we're going to start with you, because you're a former longtime Kojo Show producer. So, of course, you get special treatment. (laugh) We may not speak to Patrick at all. (laugh) Tell us about your own Thanksgiving tradition.

  • 12:18:42

    TAMOh, well, at my family's Thanksgiving, there's always a blend of the traditional, quote-unquote, "American" Thanksgiving dishes. You know, the turkey, the gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, all that. But there's also Chinese dishes on the side. My family is Chinese, and so you've got gai lan or Chinese broccoli, a vegetable stir fry. My dad is a minister, so we always have an open house for church members who don't have family nearby to spend the holiday with.

  • 12:19:10

    TAMSo, if you walk into my parents' home this Thursday, you'll find just as many people who have never celebrated Thanksgiving, because either they're recent immigrants or students who are new to the country, as there are people who have celebrated Thanksgiving all their life. So, even though there's Chinese dishes, my dad really likes to play up the American side, too, just because, a lot of times, our family meal is the introduction to the holiday.

  • 12:19:31

    NNAMDII'm writing down your home address, even as we speak. (laugh) Patrick, you have a different -- how can I say this? You have a different view of Thanksgiving food. What is it?

  • 12:19:44

    FORTVery different. Frankly, I don't get the hype. I don't get the Thanksgiving hype, stuffing, uh, turkey, uh, mashed potatoes, also uh. I just -- it's hard to get excited for it.

  • 12:19:57

    TAMPatrick's a hater.

  • 12:19:58

    FORTI welcome that.

  • 12:20:00

    NNAMDI(overlapping) You're not a fan. Have you always been this way, or has this hate developed over a period of time?

  • 12:20:04

    TAMHates jumbo slice, hates Thanksgiving. What's next? (laugh)

  • 12:20:08

    FORTI think it's been -- I've been pretty consistent on that take.

  • 12:20:12

    NNAMDIRuth, you say Thanksgiving is a time to define what you see as traditional. What do you mean by that?

  • 12:20:19

    TAMWell, I think a lot of people are starting to reconsider our country's relationship with this holiday and realizing that the traditional narrative that we've been served about pilgrims and Native Americans eating together is kind of surface level and shallow. When you look at the broader history of that relationship, it kind of paints this rosy picture of reconciliation that's used to promote this idea of our good-heartedness, our better natures, our thankfulness.

  • 12:20:46

    TAMI think as long as we're clear about our history, we can reframe Thanksgiving to be a little bit more honest. It would be interesting to see that tradition subverted, not just in the stories that we tell about ourselves, but in the menu that we serve for our family and friends. And that's actually something that we looked into for our last mini-episode of Dish City.

  • 12:21:05

    NNAMDIWhich I really enjoyed. You cooked your first Thanksgiving dinner this past week. How was that experience?

  • 12:21:10

    TAMIt was a lot less stressful than I anticipated, which is a relief. The turkey was not a disaster. I'm really proud of the gravy. I used smoked turkey neck for that, and then I reused that for the green beans. It was not a very vegetarian-friendly meal, but, you know, I had a lot of help in the kitchen. I borrowed a meat thermometer from my cousin Cynthia. I called my Aunt Florence, who's like the Thanksgiving goat in my extended family. (laugh) And my friends brought over a ton of really good side dishes and food. You know kimchijeon, kimchi pancakes, spam musubi. So, it was really just, like, a great spread.

  • 12:21:44

    NNAMDIPeople, of course, very strongly associate certain foods with this holiday. When you're with your family, are there specific dishes that you're assigned to make every year?

  • 12:21:55

    TAMI'm definitely assigned to the mashed potatoes. That's my favorite. I love potatoes in all forms. And even though I'm lactose intolerant, I just try to, like, shove as much butter and milk into the recipe as I can get away with every year. But my dad also makes jook congee, a rice porridge with the turkey carcass every year. And that's, honestly, like, my favorite part of Thanksgiving. And I'll be helping him make that this year, too.

  • 12:22:19

    NNAMDIPatrick, are you ever assigned anything at family Thanksgiving dinners besides beer? (laugh)

  • 12:22:26

    FORTI mean, that's not that bad of an assignment, quite frankly. Yeah, we usually go to my partner's family's Thanksgiving, and we're usually assigned, you know, a few things. So, I think she and I this year will be bringing a pie, and I think some sort of roasted vegetable side dish TBD. (unintelligible)

  • 12:22:47

    NNAMDILet's talk about your objection to Thanksgiving for a second. Do you ever feel boxed-in because of the traditional food? Like I said, has this hate grown over a period of time? Was there a period of time when you were young that you kind of enjoyed this?

  • 12:23:01

    FORTI don't know if it's so much a distaste for it that's grown. I think that, you know, because it's a holiday that's so rooted in people's kind of traditions, like all other holidays, right, you know, we kind of -- sometimes I think that can act against us. That can end up creating sort of like a very limited view of what a holiday can or should be.

  • 12:23:25

    FORTAnd I think that's why, in September, somebody tweeted at us explaining that they had kind of taken this different approach to Thanksgiving foods and mixed what they had done. Mixed, you know, your stuffing, your cranberry sauce, things like that and kind of taken some influences from some of D.C.'s foods, like mumbo sauce and injera from Ethiopian cuisine and kind of mixed those together. And that's how we ended up with our...

  • 12:23:53

    NNAMDIThis last episode...

  • 12:23:54

    FORT...little bonus episode of Dish City.

  • 12:23:55

    NNAMDIYes. Joining us in studio is Jenny Gao, a D.C. resident. Jenny, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:24:01

    JENNIFER GAOThank you so much for having me, Kojo.

  • 12:24:02

    NNAMDILast year, you and your husband Charles Duan hosted a Thanksgiving dinner party for 40 people. Can you tell us a little bit about your friends-giving celebration last year? Also, for listeners who might not know, what is friends-giving?

  • 12:24:16

    GAOSo we learned about friends-giving, having attended some of the ones that our friends have held with more traditional take on the Thanksgiving food dishes. And we thought this would be a great way to get to see our friends again, have a great conversation and have some fun cooking in the process. So, you know, we have these gatherings of our friends on a fairly regular basis, so we thought it would be fun to do a D.C. theme on Thanksgiving foods.

  • 12:24:45

    NNAMDISo, you are regular friends-giving partiers.

  • 12:24:49


  • 12:24:50

    NNAMDI(laugh) What was your motivation for doing away with the typical Thanksgiving fare? Is that because you share Patrick's opinion about Thanksgiving food?

  • 12:24:59

    GAOI don't know that I feel as strongly as Patrick does for Thanksgiving foods, but I think we wanted to do something that was a little bit more fun. Because we knew people were going to have the more traditional dishes that following week or two weeks, so we wanted to make it a little bit more of a different experience. And, you know, as Charles mentioned on the podcast, we love Ethiopian food. In fact, our older son now loves it, as well, so we had some injera. And Charles said, what can we do with this?

  • 12:25:25

    GAOMany of our cooking dishes at home on a regular day are what's a chopped style approach to it. What do we have in the fridge, and what can we make with it, which is how friends giving started for us.

  • 12:25:38

    NNAMDIAnd what'd you do with the injera?

  • 12:25:40

    GAOSo, we chopped up the injera, fried it in oil and butter. And we needed something else to balance the slight acidity and the texture of the injera, so we had some mushrooms lying around. Charles said let's make a mushroom confit. Let's combine it together and see what we get. And viola, our injera mushroom stuffing.

  • 12:25:58

    NNAMDITell me about the cranberry mumbo sauce.

  • 12:26:01

    GAO(laugh) So, when I first moved to D.C., Charles had moved a couple of years before me and told me about mumbo sauce, which I didn't quite understand, because...

  • 12:26:10

    NNAMDIA lot of people understand it a little better after listening to Dish City.

  • 12:26:15

    GAOExactly. So, I said, what are the ingredients of it? What is the typical mumbo sauce taste? And so, after having tried a couple of them and reading some recipes, we said, you know, it's a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy. Maybe this is something we combine with cranberry sauce and balance out the tartness of it. And, hence, cranberry mumbo sauce.

  • 12:26:35

    NNAMDISweet potato pupusas.

  • 12:26:37

    GAOYes. (laugh) So, again, one of the new foods that I learned after moving to D.C. was pupusas. And, growing up, I had learned from my mom how to make dumplings from scratch. So, rolling out the dough, kneading it, and really learning the fine balance between how much moisture content is in the dough. And when we had friends-giving, some of our friends are gluten-free, so I wanted to make sure that we had some gluten-free dishes for them. And pupusas are made with masa flour. It can't be made with 100 percent masa flour, so I harnessed what I had learned from my mom on dumpling-making. And we decided to fill it with sweet potato stuffing instead.

  • 12:27:17

    NNAMDISo, what was the biggest hit?

  • 12:27:20

    GAOI personally think it was the injera mushroom stuffing, because it was the most unique one. But I think people really also liked the cranberry mumbo sauce.

  • 12:27:27

    NNAMDIWhat was the biggest hit, based on your observation, not on your personal taste? (laugh)

  • 12:27:31

    GAOEverything was eaten completely, so (laugh) I think it went over very well with our friends.

  • 12:27:37

    NNAMDIHow many people?

  • 12:27:38

    GAOAbout 40.

  • 12:27:40

    NNAMDIOh, no wonder everything disappeared. (laugh) Here's Lara in Washington, D.C. Lara -- or is it Laura -- you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:27:47

    LAURALaura. Thank you. Thank you, Kojo. Talking about cranberry sauce, I remember several years ago, Susan Stamberg gave her recipe on the radio. And I was surprised that she used onion in her cranberry sauce. So, I tried it, and everybody loved it. And, ever since and tomorrow, I'll make my cranberry sauce.

  • 12:28:16

    NNAMDIWith onions.

  • 12:28:17

    LAURAWith onions, yes. It's delicious.

  • 12:28:21

    NNAMDIWell, people around the room, start taking notes here. (laugh) Thank you.

  • 12:28:24

    TAMIs it going to be caramelized or regular onions?

  • 12:28:26

    LAURARegular onions, and also some orange peel, also.

  • 12:28:38

    GAOYeah, I think this is Susan Stamberg's recipe.

  • 12:28:39

    LAURAYeah, it's Stamberg, but onions were -- I was very much surprised.

  • 12:28:44

    FORTMade an appearance at the WAMU Thanksgiving potluck.

  • 12:28:48

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, and thanks to Susan Stamberg. We now have that to talk about. Jenny, can you tell us about when you were first introduced to the D.C. food scene?

  • 12:28:58

    GAOYes. So, Charles had moved out in, I think, 2012, and I came down in 2014. And D.C. food was completely new to me, so, actually, Charles was the one who took me around and introduced me to Ben's Chili Bowl, Half Smoke, the Ethiopian places and the pupuserias. And, since then, we've really loved immersing ourselves in the culture and the food aspect of D.C.

  • 12:29:21

    GAOAnd that's something we're also trying to impart on our kids. You know, they're three and six, and so really starting to just now get out of their picky eating phase and develop a taste for some of these more ethnic flavors.

  • 12:29:34

    NNAMDIWhy are you telling your three-year-old that any fried, slightly crunchy food is chicken fingers?

  • 12:29:43

    GAOSo, our (laugh) three-year-old is currently on a chicken nugget phase. And so, we were at Zenebech, actually, one of the Ethiopian restaurants, because our older one was saying he wanted Ethiopian food. And that was right around the corner from us.

  • 12:29:58

    GAOAnd as we're going down the menu, Charles and I were looking, what could we pass off as chicken nuggets? And they have a fried tilapia filet as a side dish. Charles said, let's give it a shot, you know. What's the worst that can happen? We'll eat it. And he passed it off to our little one as a chicken nugget, because it was a crispy outer with a white meat interior. And, lo and behold, he loved it. (laugh) So, we've gone back many times to get it.

  • 12:30:26

    NNAMDIYou'll have this kid, when he's 27 years old, walking around thinking that everything is (laugh) chicken fingers. Here now is Sohana in Manassas, Virginia. Sohana, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:30:39

    SOHANAYes, hello. Thank you for taking my call. I just wanted to do some additional saying about the Thanksgiving. My husband is American, and for the past 27 years, I introduced this walnut pomegranate stew to Thanksgiving, because originally, this has been made in Iran and Turkey. And it's a delicious combination with any sort of meat. So, pomegranate stew with walnuts, it's a very transitional Iranian stew. It's a very thick stew, and it's delicious.

  • 12:31:22

    NNAMDITell us the name of the stew again.

  • 12:31:25

    SOHANAActually, in Iranian, it's called fesenjan.

  • 12:31:29


  • 12:31:30

    SOHANAYes, fesenjan.

  • 12:31:31

    NNAMDIThank you very much. There's someone on our staff who knows these things, who told me that's what it's called, fesenjan. Thank you very much for your call. And, you know, one of the things that, Ruth and Patrick, and I know you and Jenny all think about is the difference between cultural recognition and cultural appropriation, because this is something that you discuss on Dish City. So, when we're talking about Thanksgiving, which is a traditional American meal, and we're now including all of these ingredients of other cultures in it, how should we think about it now, Ruth?

  • 12:32:03

    TAMI think it's interesting. I think a lot of immigrants will be like, oh well, there's American food, and then there's my food, not kind of acknowledging that their food is part of America, too. If they're Americans, their food is American. And I think it's okay to kind of, you know, look back and see, like, oh, actually, if this holiday is really about people getting together and, you know, acknowledging our history and coming together for common ground, if that's what we want it to be, then that can be reflected in food, too. And let's maybe integrate some dishes that come from elsewhere and really start thinking of that as traditional American, as well.

  • 12:32:43

    NNAMDIAnd, of course, this is what you have been doing, Jenny. So, why do you think it's important to also get to know a city through its food?

  • 12:32:49

    GAOSo, I've lived in many cities and, actually, many countries so far. And I think one of the key ways to get to know a city or know a culture is through the food, and certainly the language and the people, as well. And so with that I think understanding how a food is made, what the spices are, what are some of the traditional influences from it really help me understand what the history of that culture is, and help me feel like I can understand it a little bit better.

  • 12:33:20

    GAOAnd I think with every single culture and tradition, there's always gathering of family, being thankful for each other and the things that you have. And that's how we see Thanksgiving, as getting together with our loved ones and our friends and giving thanks for what we have.

  • 12:33:35

    NNAMDIHow do you put your own spin on classic Thanksgiving recipes? Tell us about your experience. That's what Jennifer in Herndon, Virginia would like to do. Jennifer, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:33:46

    JENNIFERHello. Thank you. So, my family does have a lot of traditions, and a lot of them came from Europe. And one of the traditional dishes, or actually a couple of them, are sauerkraut and kielbasa, as well as pierogis. Oh, my God, that is like my best comfort food in the world. (laugh) We have it at Thanksgiving all the time, I mean, since I was a child. I'm almost 50 now. And what I love, the different generations putting different spins or different ingredients in the food.

  • 12:34:18

    JENNIFERYou know, one thing, you never use canned for sauerkraut. Oh, that's like verboten. You can't do that. Like, you should leave the table. Take that dish with you. The other thing is, like, I really like mushrooms, mushrooms and pierogis, like, the different varieties out there. It always used to be, you know, the white button mushrooms. Now it's portobello, shiitakes. Oh, my God, they're delightful. (laugh)

  • 12:34:43

    JENNIFERAnd, you know, the different ingredients that you add to sauerkraut, it's not just sauerkraut and kielbasa. What else can you put in it? Can you put cranberries in it? That was a recent addition. That family member is still in the family. It was great though. So, that's our spin, seeing the evolution of, you know, popular foods that are added to our traditional dishes, and I love that.

  • 12:35:08

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, because, Ruth and Patrick, that's what Dish City is all about. What has this experience been like for you, getting to know D.C. better through its food scene?

  • 12:35:18

    TAMWell, we were already really big fans of the District, but doing this show kind of made us really deeply invested in sharing the culture and the history with folks, regardless of their relationship to this town. And it's been really great also meeting people who have either like the same level of, like, fervor for D.C. that we do, if not more, and figuring out where they like to eat and what their favorite restaurants are.

  • 12:35:43

    FORTYeah, I think it just kind of helps you -- the more you understand a place, the more you begin to appreciate it. And I think, you know, like Ruth said, we were both fans of living here. We both love living here, so I think it just kind of nails that down even more.

  • 12:35:55

    NNAMDIWe're coming up on Thanksgiving break, which means if you're at the airport or stuck in traffic somewhere, it's the perfect time to binge all seven episodes of Dish City, WAMU's podcast stories of city change told through D.C.'s most iconic foods at TheDishCity.org, or listen wherever you get your podcasts. Ruth Tam, Patrick Fort, co-hosts of WAMU's Dish City, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:36:18

    TAMThanks, Kojo.

  • 12:36:18

    FORTThanks, Kojo.

  • 12:36:19

    NNAMDIGoing to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation. And somebody talked about comfort food. We'll be hearing some more about that when we come back. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:36:45

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're discussing interesting takes on Thanksgiving. Jenny Gao is still with us. She's a D.C. resident. Last year, she and her husband Charles Duan hosted a Thanksgiving dinner party for 40 people. And joining us in studio is Zena Polin, owner of the Daily Dish restaurant and catering company. Zena, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:37:02

    ZENA POLINThank you for having me.

  • 12:37:03

    NNAMDIComfort food means something different to everybody, Zena. What does it mean to you?

  • 12:37:08

    POLINWell, for me, it means several things. I mean, the restaurant, The Daily Dish, is based on doing comfort food with a twist. And then we also have another restaurant called The Dish and Dram in Kensington. And we use that comfort food, the kind of international flavors you'd have if you were traveling with family in Europe, for example. So, you know, things like steak frites or mussels. And it's also part of culture, as we were talking earlier, things that bring you comfort and joy when you eat them, and memories.

  • 12:37:35

    NNAMDIWhat are your own Thanksgiving traditions?

  • 12:37:38

    POLINWell, I usually work Thanksgiving morning and late Wednesday night, because we do a Thanksgiving-to-go for a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for eight people. So, we usually have people in the restaurant until about 1:00 or 2:00 picking up Thanksgiving for their family. It's always a really fun time for us on Wednesday night, because we've been around for about 10 years, so we see the kids that were -- gosh, we saw them when they were born and they grow up. And the kids that come back from college. And our host and hostess who are now in school.

  • 12:38:06

    POLINAnd then, after that, I pretty much go straight to a friends-giving with the people I've been doing it for about five years, my friends Craig and Eli. And we pop some champagne, and I think this year we're starting with caviar that I brought back from Iceland. And we put that altogether into our own fun afternoon.

  • 12:38:25

    NNAMDIBack up a second. What exactly is Thanksgiving-to-go?

  • 12:38:28

    POLINSo, we do -- a lot of people don't want to cook on Thanksgiving and don't want to have to do the trauma of everything, finding room in the oven. It seems easy, but, you know, it's a little hard. So, we do a turkey and all the trimmings. We do the stuffing and the roasted vegetables that we bring in from Lancaster County and green beans and pie and gravy.

  • 12:38:48

    POLINAnd some people, interestingly enough, like to get the whole thing. But then the one thing they like to cook are the turkeys. So, they usually pick it up on Wednesdays, because they like that scent, right, because scent is also a memory that brings joy.

  • 12:38:59

    NNAMDIThe Daily Dish focuses on farm-fresh comfort food. Is that right?

  • 12:39:03

    POLINThat's exactly right, yes.

  • 12:39:04

    NNAMDIRight now, you're working on something, it's my understanding, fried green plantains?

  • 12:39:10

    POLINYes. One of my favorite dishes.

  • 12:39:12

    NNAMDIBecause I know of a lot of fried yellow plantains, but not green plantains.

  • 12:39:14

    POLINRight. So, the yellow would be the maduro. So, I spent about eight years living in Puerto Rico, celebrating a lot of holidays over there, and I love plantains, right. You can just do anything with them, depending on the color, right, the yellow or the green. And so the green plantains, you tend to make mofongo, which is kind of almost like a stuffing. You can do it as or standalone. You can make tostones, which are really some of my favorite things. And, with the yellow ones, you do the maduros, which are the sweet ones you often see in restaurants, with sour cream. And they're delicious.

  • 12:39:46

    NNAMDILet's go to the phones. Here is Rebecca in Alvy, Virginia. Rebecca, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:39:52

    REBECCAI just want to share with you a new tradition in our family. Our oldest son is a very healthy eater and prefers plain sweet potatoes, baked sweet potatoes. So, what we've done for the past five or six years is cook or bake simple sweet potatoes, and then serve that with a sweet potato topping bar that includes things like savory herbed butter, sweet honey cinnamon butter, sour cream, chopped sugared nuts and tiny marshmallows. So, if our guests prefer the savory on the sweet potatoes, they can do that. Or if they prefer the sweet on the sweet potatoes, they can do that. And that's been a great tradition.

  • 12:40:28

    NNAMDIOh, thank you very much for sharing that with us. Zena, you're somewhat boxed-in when it comes to traditional Thanksgiving food. How do you find room for creativity?

  • 12:40:37

    POLINWell, we have a great staff. We have a very international staff, which is why I was kind of fascinated by Jennifer's sweet potato pupusa. I immediately forwarded that to my chef and said we must do this. So, often, I'll give them an idea of something that we think is traditional, as we were discussing earlier, and they may put their own flair on it. They may use herbs or spices or something or it may be something rings a bell to them, and they'll come up differently.

  • 12:41:01

    POLINAnd they're not as boxed in as we are, so if we have turkey, maybe they'll do some kind of a turkey pie. Maybe they'll top it with mash potato crust. Or maybe they'll make it into a soup. So, I usually use -- I give them an idea, and then I let them bounce with it. And sometimes it's flavors that I've brought back from my travels. So, I brought back lava salt from Iceland, where I was just recently, and some different salts. And I'll just say, find a way to use this. And then that's how we kind of go back and forth on different things.

  • 12:41:30

    NNAMDIWell, here's Ben in Silver Spring, Maryland. Ben, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:41:34

    BENHey, yeah. I was interested in the conversation about the different cultural sharings. And I was thinking what strikes me about Thanksgiving is how much of it is an essentially Native American meal. You've got turkey, which is native to Mexico, I think. You've got potatoes from Peru. You've got corn and the stuffing. It goes on and one. And so, instead of it being just sort of a bland, kind of cookie cutter 1950s food, it's actually a deeper, essentially, American one, literally American, Native American.

  • 12:42:10

    NNAMDIOh, thank you very much for sharing that with us because one of the things we're talking about here, of course, is how many different cultural influences there are on the Thanksgiving meal. And so, in that context, allow me to turn to a voice that will sound familiar to some of us in this room. Charles, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:42:29

    CHARLES DUANHi, honey.

  • 12:42:30

    GAOHi. How are you?

  • 12:42:31

    NNAMDIThis would be Charles Duan, Jenny Gao's husband, (laugh) who you may have heard in the Dish City podcast. Go ahead, Charles.

  • 12:42:38

    DUANHi, and thanks for having me on. The question I have for all the guests is, I'd like to know what you guys think is going to be the next big D.C. food, both because I'm interested, and I want to know what dish I should be making for Thanksgiving this year.

  • 12:42:52

    NNAMDIGood question. I have given it no thought, whatsoever. Have you, Zena?

  • 12:42:57

    POLINWell, I mean, it's actually a really good question, but I think some of it is how we take traditional, right, and make it the way -- make it with -- well, for us, farm to table. So, we think pumpkin pie, and what do we all think? We think of picking up a thing of Libby's, a can. Right? But we go out into Lancaster County and we get these beautiful pumpkins, usually the Cinderella pumpkins or the fairytale, and we bake those. And then we use that to make pumpkin pie, maybe have a little pumpkin flan. Maybe do that in our pumpkin soup. Maybe bake it whole. So, I think you can take the traditional, but really get to the roots of what it is you want to make it from. And then take that a little bit farther.

  • 12:43:39

    NNAMDIJenny, do you care to share with Charles what your plans are for this Thanksgiving? (laugh)

  • 12:43:45

    GAOWell, so, we already discussed that we're going to make the sweet potato pupusas again, but this year we're going to -- the 2.0 version will be to use different kinds of sweet potatoes, and also to bring in some of the fall squash, so it's acorn squash with it. And Charles promised that he would make a pumpkin spice whipped cream to go with that pupusa. And I'm also thinking about toasting and caramelizing some nuts for a balance of the crunchiness and the more chewiness of the pupusa.

  • 12:44:16

    GAOOur three-year-old, in addition to the chicken nugget phase, is also on a nut phase. And then I think we're just going to do some more updates of what we did last year. Maybe mix in some shiitake mushrooms to the injera. Now, Charles did say he wanted to try out a jumbo sliced panzanella salad. So, maybe that will be on the menu, as well.

  • 12:44:34

    NNAMDIThat will definitely be fascinating. You know, when Charles was on this show, he spoke at some length about the line between appropriating and honoring someone's culture -- a conversation I had briefly with Ruth Tam and Patrick Fort, here -- when you borrow and when you adapt a recipe. I'd like to hear some of your thoughts about this.

  • 12:44:53

    GAOWell, having come from various different cultures -- so, I was born in China. I spent a couple of years in Germany when my dad was doing his PhD there. And then having lived in Louisiana, in the South, and then moving to Massachusetts New England, I've been exposed to all different kinds of foods and cultures throughout my upbringing. And I'd like to think that's really helped shape the person that I am today, because I love all aspects of all of these different cultures. And I think it's really an important way to learn about them.

  • 12:45:23

    GAOI also really like learning languages, and that's what we're teaching our kids, as well. We're in a district where they'll learn Spanish in their schools. I speak Chinese with them at home. And then, of course, English will be their mother tongue. So, hopefully, they'll have a combination of language and food from many different cultures.

  • 12:45:39

    NNAMDICharles, with all of this experimenting, if you will, that you and Jenny are doing, do you have a favorite, bottom-line Thanksgiving staple?

  • 12:45:48

    DUANA favorite, bottom-line staple. So, I love stuffing. I love stuffing in just about every possible format. I love the fact that it's so easy to make, especially out of, you know, just things that are lying around the house. You have some stale bread. Well, you chop it up, throw some soup onto it, and you've basically got the beginning of the stuffing.

  • 12:46:05

    DUANAnd I feel like that's one of my favorite bases to start experimenting. You know, that's how we came up with the injera mushroom stuffing, because I'm thinking, well, you know, this injera's similar enough to bread. Maybe it'll work out well as a stuffing base. We've done it with cornbread, with croissants. I don't know what else we've tried. But, yeah you know, I think that it's not so much a particular dish that I always go to as, you know, just sort of technique, because I love stuffing.

  • 12:46:36

    DUANI love hashes. You know, if you've got a potato and you've got leftover meat, you chop it up and you've got, you know, a great breakfast dish. You know, those are a couple of the go-tos that I have, at least.

  • 12:46:49

    NNAMDIZena, what is your favorite Thanksgiving staple?

  • 12:46:53

    POLINWell, you know, I feel like we're all talking about stuffing, right, because it's just you just -- for me, I love stuffing on top of bread with some gravy. If I was going to pick a little bit more cultural, when I mentioned I had lived in Puerto Rico a long time, what they do is they call something -- they call it a pavochon, which is a combination of a turkey cooked in lechon, or a pork style. And so you get all these wonderful flavors of -- it really starts off the holiday season, which, in Puerto Rico, lasts till somewhere in the middle of January. And I absolutely love that, but if I was really going to do what my heart wants, it's stuffing on top of bread with gravy and maybe a little piece of turkey on that.

  • 12:47:29

    NNAMDIOkay. Here now is Dave in Germantown, who wants to learn a little bit more about something you talked about, Zena. Dave, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:47:39

    DAVEHello, everyone. Hey, I just wanted to make a comment about the plantains. You mentioned the green and the yellow. We make plantains, I guess maybe it's a Guatemalan style. (unintelligible) plantain is actually totally black, and then we slice it and cook it. And it's really, really good that way.

  • 12:48:06

    POLINWell, those would be the ripest of the ripe, right. When they're black, they're super ripe. And I spent quite a lot of time down in Guatemala and, yeah, so it's really great. And each one of those gets a different flavor. So, when they're green, you can cut them and use them and manipulate them. And then they have the yellow. And then once you get to the black, they're just super, super ripe. And they do have a much stronger flavor that way, as well.

  • 12:48:27

    NNAMDII spent a major portion of my youth pounding the green plantains, (laugh) because that took the longest. And my mother always made me do that. But thank you for your call, Dave. Here is Kim in Northwest D.C. Kim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:48:40

    KIMHello, all. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • 12:48:41

    GAOHappy Thanksgiving.

  • 12:48:42

    KIMI'm really appreciating your global take on the holidays. It's really quite fascinating and very ambitious. I want to go back to what the caller was talking about when she mentioned sauerkraut being on the table. I'm fifth-generation Washingtonian, African American, and for generations, decades, our family has served sauerkraut. The theory is that my great grandmother, being a domestic, probably migrated from her employer's table to ours. Can anyone speak to its origin being on the Thanksgiving table?

  • 12:49:13

    POLINWell, I have a little story about that. So, my business partner is Mennonite, and that comes from a German background. And every New Year's Day, we must have pork and sauerkraut on our New Year's Day brunch. So, I know there's a connection in that sense of how it came over. I'm not quite sure about the Thanksgiving connection, but for us, we always have it on New Year's Day brunch.

  • 12:49:34

    NNAMDIHere's finally, Karen in Washington, D.C. Karen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:49:40

    KARENHi, Kojo. I'm excited this Thanksgiving, because we're having a vegetarian vegan Thanksgiving for the first time, my husband being the last family member to join the club. And so that he doesn't feel, you know, like he's missing something, I found a pineapple-glazed ham from New Vegan Café, which is not made from a pig, but it's made from something else. But I've found a couple things to hopefully replace the turkey and the ham that people normally have. And I'm just really excited that there's so many vegan options around the D.C. area nowadays.

  • 12:50:18

    NNAMDIWell, thank you very much for your call, Karen, and good luck to you. Jenny Gao is a D.C. resident. We heard from Jenny and her husband Charles Duan, also calling in. Thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:50:27

    GAOThank you so much for having us.

  • 12:50:28

    NNAMDIAnd happy Thanksgiving.

  • 12:50:29

    GAOHappy Thanksgiving.

  • 12:50:30

    NNAMDIZena Polin is the owner of The Daily Dish restaurant and catering company. Zena, thank you for joining us. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

  • 12:50:36

    POLINThank you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

  • 12:50:38

    NNAMDIToday's show was produced by Julie Depenbrock. Coming up tomorrow, no major publication in the D.C. region has a fulltime food critic who is a person of color. We'll sit down with writers and chefs to discuss how food criticism and its gatekeepers shape our food scene and how that might all be changing. That all start tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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