An Immigrant's Thanksgiving Story

Real Estate Agent with Baird & Warner Real Estate

My parents emigrated to this country in 1951 from Poland.  They survived World War II as fighters in the underground resistance and internment in a prisonor-of-war camp in Germany. 

Although I currently live in a mecca for people of Polish heritage (Chicago), I actually grew up in Los Angeles where there is not a large Polish population.  Thus, my mother had to fend for herself and learn through her children, my brother and me, about these curious American traditions.

My parents embraced America - although they spoke Polish at home, they learned English quickly and applied for American citizenship as soon as they were able.  My father returned to school to finish his studies for an engineering degree and my mother had two kids and stayed home to raise us.

Thanksgiving stumped her.  She never really liked to cook, but to spend all day fussing over a large bird was something she put off as long as she could.  But as we kids grew up and started talking turkey, bringing home pilgrim cutouts and recipes for sweet potatoes, she knew she had to figure this thing out.

The perfect solution for her was a recipe she found somewhere that suggested cooking the turkey all day at Burned Turkeya very low temperature.  No fuss at all - just buy it, clean it, and stick it in the oven for 12 hours.  This bombshell of a recipe resulted in a withered, brown lump that my parents served with great ceremony.  Really.  No stuffing, no gravy, no cranberry, no pumpkin.  Just lots of potatoes.  Oh, and some stewed cabbage and beets.

And so it went for many years.  We celebrated Thanksgiving, just the four of us, understanding as we got older that it wasn't native to them.  But their children were Americans now and needed to partake in American holidays, no matter how alien it might feel to them.  I didn't have gravy or cranberry sauce until I was well into my twenties but I never missed it.  Cornbread or stuffing were not served but we didn't notice that either.

We were a family, part old world, part new, that felt what the Pilgrims must have felt in those early days:  that good gravy and some tart cranberries would go a long way to make a dry old bird taste better!


Happy Thanksgiving to all!     Thanksgiving Dinner

Posted by

Margaret Goss - Winnetka and North Shore Real Estate Broker
Specializing in homes for sale in Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Northfield, Glencoe, Glenview, Northbrook, and Evanston.

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Stephen Garner
Hub Media Company - Tempe, AZ
Hub Media Company

Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.  Its one of my parents favorite holidays, they immigrated from Europe as well.  Enjoy Turkey Day!!

Nov 25, 2009 05:13 AM #1
Michael A. Caruso
Surterre Properties - Laguna Niguel, CA


What a great story. I hope you can also carry on a Polish tradition into the holidays as well. It's important not to forget your roots. Happy Thanksgiving!


Nov 25, 2009 05:23 AM #2
Jim Hale
Eugene Oregon's Best Home Search Website

Margaret -

We are all immigrants...well, almost all of us.

Some of us have just forgotten.


All of us, even the poorest among us, is in so much better shape than hundreds of millions of our neighbors across the world.

Nov 26, 2009 06:36 PM #3
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Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate
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