How De Anza’s Thanksgiving tables vary across different cultures

Nikita Bankar

The annual Thanksgiving dinner not only allows one to appreciate those around them and spend time over a meal, but can celebrate culture and the dinner table can look different depending on one’s food traditions.

De Anza English professor Marietta Reber’s chocolate pecan pie on Nov. 24, which became a tradition passed down for generations in her family. (Photo courtesy by Marietta Reber)

De Anza College English professor Marrietta Reber’s staple dish is her chocolate pecan pie. 

“The reason the chocolate pecan pie is on my Thanksgiving table every year is because pecan pie is a fall classic and it’s freaking delicious,” Reber said. “Only my mom improved upon the original version of pecan pie by turning it into a chocolate pecan pie because my dad is a chocoholic, and so am I.”

Reber said that the pie is used both as a way to pass a tradition down through generations and to bring them together during the holiday. 

“It was so fun to see how a recipe for a dish can connect not only generations within the same family, but also people from any setting,” Reber said. “From my grandma, to my mom, to me, to my son who helped me make the chocolate pecan pie this Thanksgiving, to my student — the pie legacy is passed on and savored.”

Jesse Vo, 20, computer science major, had a combination of both traditional American dishes and Vietnamese items, such as sautéed shrimp, egg rolls and soups during his Thanksgiving meal with cousins on Nov. 25. Photo courtesty by Jesse Vo)

De Anza student Jesse Vo, 20, computer science major, said that his Thanksgiving table is filled with not only the expected foods like turkey and vegetables, but also Asian dishes that are cooked by his family members.

Being Vietnamese, Bo said his Thanksgiving is a mixture of two different cultures. Traditionally, a Vietnamese rendition of the holiday would include roasted duck, pork, bánh mì and other varying meats.

“It’s cool, especially combining two traditions from American and Vietnamese food for the holiday,” Vo said. “It’s different every year.”

Vo said that although the food is delicious, quality time is what he values most. 

“What is most important for me is spending time with family,” Vo said.


De Anza student Marlene Farias, 19, sociology major, displays a platter of mixed vegetables with brussels sprouts mushrooms, asparagus and potatoes at her Thanksgiving gathering on Nov. 24. (Photo courtesy by Marlene Farias)

De Anza student Marlene Farias, 19, sociology major, also shared her favorite dish at the table — a mixed plate including potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and brussel sprouts.

Farias said that Thanksgiving is an opportunity to share special moments with those she loves. 

“It is not often that we all get together as a family and have dinner all at once,” Farias said. “It’s nice having a specific time to gather.”

Anna Mantel, 19, biology major, and her family baked Russian pierogies on Nov. 24, which are often made on special holidays and have many variations. (Photo courtesy by Anna Mantel)

For some students like Anna Mantel, 19, biology major, Thanksgiving allows her to cherish the presence of her loved ones and relax.

“This time is valuable because it gives us meaning as a family to problem solve,” Mantel said. “But at the same time, we can also congratulate each other over some tasty dinner.”

Mantel said her Russian heritage impacts her Thanksgiving traditions because the food that she associates with the holiday differs greatly from traditional American food. 

Mantel’s favorite food is Russian pierogies which are half-circular dumplings stuffed with fillings like potatoes, cheese, sauerkraut and mushrooms. It is a traditional Russian dish which originated in Poland, and is often made to celebrate various holidays.

Karen Ñol, 19, marketing major, shared this photo of Pozole, a Mexican dish, that she and her family added to their Thanksgiving table on Nov. 24. (Photo courtesy by Karen Ñol)

Personalizing Thanksgiving with each individual’s unique culture is something Karen Ñol, 19, marketing major, values about the holiday season.  Ñol said that one of the dishes she had this Thanksgiving was Pozole, which is a traditional Mexican soup including maize and pork. Being Mexican, she said the dish held quite a bit of meaning for her and her family.

“This dish is important because it is traditionally used during holidays and other festive celebrations, especially during Christmas time,” Ñol said.

Ñol also said that although Thanksgiving was not something her family celebrated like other Americans, she still enjoyed the festivities that came along with the special day.

“We have made it a tradition to get together, have delicious food and dessert and give our thanks to god,” Ñol said. “My family has created a different meaning for it — to spend time with family and be thankful for all the good things God has given us in the past year.”