Is there a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with a table full of foods representing the melting pot that is the United States?
Most people love Thanksgiving, and through food, our celebration is an expression of gratitude for our harvest, our health, and our homes. Every year, we look forward to celebrating the day with our families seated around the table, a roasted turkey at its center, with a bounty of dishes made from seasonal ingredients unique to our part of the world and cultural influences from our ancestors, extended families and friends.
The themes of Thanksgiving are perhaps most germane in a language class, and a great way to help students make this connection is by talking about . . .food. Nowadays Thanksgiving—more than anything else—is about what we eat. And what the nearly sixty million Latin American and Hispanic people living in the United States serve with the turkey is truly emblematic of how different cultures come together.
Cuban Americans will often serve a leg of pork alongside the turkey, and many Thanksgiving tables of Latin American families will feature a plate of rice and beans. Mofongo has long been a staple on the Thanksgiving tables of Puerto Ricans. Mofongo is a dish from Puerto Rico made of plantains that are fried and then mashed into a circular mound, and in recent years stuffing made with mofongo has gained popularity, with a recipe for it even appearing in The New York Times (or try this version from Qué Rica Vida). Another variation on stuffing includes one with chorizo, apple and cornbread.
Chipotle cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with chilis, and empanadas made with sweet potato, queso fresco and bacon are other popular sides. As for dessert, pumpkin flan is prepared, as is bizcocho, the airy Dominican cake topped with meringue and filled with either guava, pineapple, or dulce de leche, and, for this occasion, decorated for Thanksgiving.
If your students enjoy talking about these dishes and the cultural influence they bring to the Thanksgiving table, try taking it a step further by having them get some hands-on experience with the food. Better yet, have them practice Spanish as they do this.
Give an extra credit assignment in which students must find a recipe for one of the aforementioned dishes online. Then have them do a video log at home of themselves making the recipe while explaining the steps and ingredients in Spanish. The videos can be watched in class the first day after the break, which is also a good way to transition students back into la clase de español after nearly a week away. This season, let’s use the holiday as a starting point for a discussion on how Thanksgiving has become relevant to the lives of immigrants in our country today, how the influence of different heritages affects what we eat, and on the importance of speaking a second language in bridging different cultures.
Looking for support for your language class? Learn more about HMH’s World Languages programs.
Download our Spanish Holiday Calendar to learn more about other Hispanic holidays happening year-round.