Thanksgiving at Chef Karl’s House

Chef

Global Master Chef Karl and son at Thanksgiving

So how does one celebrate Thanksgiving when brought up in a German/Bavarian Culture and having no idea of the American concept of the holiday until coming to the States at age 25?

In Germany, we celebrated “Erntedankfest”, a Harvest Thanksgiving marking the end of harvest in September. It was a different concept than perpetuated here in the United States.

Erntedankfest was celebrated with carnivals, fairs and especially a meal —- consisting of roasted goose served with red cabbage cooked in red wine, and enhanced with boysenberries, as well as various spices and honey.

The side dishes included a very tasty, flavor-full Savory Bread Pudding Dumpling made from day-old crusty rolls, eggs, milk, bacon, butter, onions, parsley, and even cream. The dumplings were cooked in broth. For me, this was the tastiest side dish.

Fast forward now to my life in the USA.

I was introduced to the Thanksgiving feast when I came to the U.S. in Fall 1974. I was enrolled to go to College in Grand Rapids, Michigan in January of 1975.

I arrived in October and was fortunate to be able to spend the interim time with friends in Allentown, PA. My host family was very large. The mom was an old-fashioned home education teacher. The father was a school superintendent. They had six kids, three girls and three boys, ages 14 to 25. They all lived at home, so one can imagine all the cooking that went on in that house.

Well, when Thanksgiving came, the feast was phenomenal:
two large turkeys, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes,
vegetables, gravy, six pies (pumpkin, mincemeat, banana cream pie, lemon meringue, apple, and peach) and all sorts of other food.

I have never forgotten this feast.

Fast forward a few years, I was now married, had two kids and was working at a university….and after many years of having to work on Thanksgiving, was now able to start my own traditions.

I was certainly enjoying the American fare of foods, adopted from my experience from the Allentown family, but I wanted to at least keep one dish that reflected my own heritage – and that would be my still all-time favorite – the Savory Bread Pudding Dumpling.

Though I liked the traditional cornbread stuffing, I started to stuff our family Turkey with the “new” stuffing. Everyone seemed to like it. It went so well with the turkey and the gravy and all the other flavors.

For most of our Thanksgivings, I deboned the turkey, leaving the skin intact (quite an undertaking) and made the Savory Bread Pudding to stuff the turkey.

I might also add that during my years at the university and even to this day, I always invited students to our house, especially international students who had no place to go during the holidays.
Many of them brought a dish from their home country. One year my son called our Thanksgiving dinner the United Nations Thanksgiving at the Dean’s house.

Well to me it was always a great joy to have all these cultures in our house. It was a great lesson to my children about global diversity, tolerance, acceptance and understanding and that nothing brings people closer than breaking bread together. They also have fond memories and positive impressions about
this experience.

So to me, Thanksgiving is just that, giving thanks for what God has provided, share it with others and cook the food we all enjoy so much.

I wish everyone a very happy and joyful Thanksgiving!