Thanksgiving with BU Gastronomy Students

We hope you had a great Turkey Day and spent lots of time reflecting on what you are grateful for!  BU is off for the holiday and we were curious about how Gastronomy students spend Thanksgiving.   Meet Michelle and Catherine who have shared their Thanksgiving traditions with us!

Photo: Oscar Rohena, Flickr CC Search

For Puerto Ricans, Thanksgiving, or the day of the turkey, is a very special holiday. It represents the start of our favorite time of the year, Christmas. All my life, on this special day, my family and I have gathered at my maternal grandparents house. My grandmother has always been responsible for preparing the turkey with a special filling of “mofongo” (mashed plantain) and ground beef, and to make rice with “gandules” (pigeon peas), which is our official symbol of festive food.

My aunt always brings boiled root vegetables and pieces of roasted pork (simply because a Puerto Rican party without pork is incomplete). While in my home we take care of the desserts, whether a good homemade carrot cake, a flan or a “tembleque”, which is custard made with coconut milk, cornstarch and cinnamon. In addition to that, at the table we will always find “pan criollo” (our traditional bread), potato salad with mayonnaise, “pasteles boricuas” (similar to Mexican tamales but based on plantains), “coquito” (a drink made whit coconut cream), and finally “ron caña” (a clandestine rum, illegal for not paying taxes and for not meeting the requirements of health and quality controls).

After chopping the turkey and serving all the plates, my grandparents, my uncles, my parents, my siblings and I stood around the outdoor dining table, and my grandfather lead a prayer of thanks. Once my grandfather finishes the prayer, we say to each other “buen provecho” (a typical phrase that is said before beginning to eat to desire a good digestion) and we run to enjoy the exquisite food that adorns the dishes. The evening is distinguished by the typical Christmas music of Puerto Rico, the loud jokes of my father and planning the parties for the rest of the Christmas.

Photo: Oscar Rohena, Flickr CC Search

This year is the first time I will celebrate Thanksgiving away from my warm home, but with my extended family.

My Puerto Ricans friends who live in Boston will come to my apartment and we will recreate the typical Puerto Rican Thanksgiving party that I described earlier. I’m sure the only difference will be the cold weather and the possibility of snow, but we will do our best to bring Puerto Rico to us and spend it as warm as if we were at home.

“¡Buen provecho y que empiece la fiesta!”

By Michelle Estades, First-Year MLA Gastronomy


It’s All About Pie

One of the key elements of any Thanksgiving meal, arguably the most important, is the dessert. Of course no Thanksgiving dessert spread could ever be complete without the perfect pumpkin pie, at least that is how my family feels. Beginning at a young age I began to help my father make the annual Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. I began to help more and more until, around the age of eleven or twelve, I had completely taken over the pumpkin pie making duties. At that point the only thing I did not do was actually cutting the pumpkins in half. I don’t know many twelve year olds who have the upper body strength to chop a pumpkin in two, so my dad continued to make that contribution for several years.  

It is always vital that I make every bit of the pie from scratch, from the crust to the pumpkin puree for the filling. Absolutely no canned pumpkin in our house. What really turned the tables was the summer that our compost pile in the backyard began to sprout a mysterious vine. By the fall the vine was producing the most perfect pie pumpkins. Not only was our annual Thanksgiving pie made completely from scratch, it was also made from local, metro-Detroit pumpkins, grown in our very own backyard.  

Backyard grown pumpkins are not the only element that I use to create our traditional pumpkin pie. The classic pumpkin spice, the correct balance of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, isn’t even the most important part of the filling. It is all about the secret ingredient, dark rum. The rich, molasses-like flavor of the dark rum brings the whole pie together in a way that no other ingredient can. Over the years other members of the family have tried to make other things for dessert, like pumpkin cheesecake, or pecan pie, and it is never quite the same. It simply would not be a Santrock family Thanksgiving without a rum flavored pumpkin pie. We usually like to be a little adventurous with our Thanksgiving menu, this year we are replacing the turkey with lamb, some years we don’t even have mashed potatoes! As far as I’m concerned, we could have our entire meal be pumpkin pie and we would still be keeping to tradition.

Photo: Catherine Santrock
By Catherine Santrock, First-Year MLA Gastronomy



Celebrating the Holidays in the City

Whatever your reason (thesis writing, anthropology research, price of plane ticket, and/or the impending nor’easter) for staying in the city this holiday week, there’s no reason to miss out on the celebrations. From fine dining to festive shows, living in this bustling city has its perks and the holiday season is no exception. So skip that microwave dinner (do gastronomes even dare purchase such things?) and enjoy these seven tips for surviving, and enjoying, the holidays in the city.

1. Start the holiday off by going to the giant Menorah lighting in the Boston Commons.

photo by the Boston Globe

2. Take a walk in the relatively tourist-free Boston Commons and then go for a skate on the now frozen Frog Pond! Bring your own skates and admission only costs $5 or you can rent a pair for an additional $9.

photo by Joyce Kingman

3. Wake up early on Thanksgiving morning and tune into the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. No TV necessary, you can watch it online!

photo by ABC News

4. Scrambling for dinner plans? Plenty of restaurants are open for the holiday and a few, like the Beehive and Legal Sea Foods, are serving up traditional Thanksgiving Dinners with all the fixings for relatively student-friendly prices. Find more traditional turkey dinners here.

photo by The Beehive

5. Go visit the pilgrims at Plimoth Plantation and get a second helping of traditional and possibly puritanical New England Thanksgiving fare (the menu includes things like ciderkin, a pottage of cabbage, native corn pudding, and stewed Pompion. Yum!).

photo by Bon Appetit

6. Get your holiday light show and cute zoo animal fix in one! Starting Thursday, November 28th, New England Stone Zoo’s opens its doors for its annual ZooLights event complete with festive holiday decor, reindeer, and arctic foxes!

photo by Zoo New England

7. No matter what you celebrate, end the weekend with a full stomach by attending the “Everybody Loves Latkes Party!” Head on over to Brattle Plaza in Harvard Square, Sunday, December 1st from 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM to sample a diverse array of traditional and Thanksgiving-themed potato pancakes. Apple sauce and sour cream provided.

photo by Nosh On It

Have a safe and happy holiday and be sure to share your delicious celebrations on the BU Gastronomy Twitter and Instagram accounts using the hashtag #bugastronomy!