Thanksgiving crept into our lives. When we first settled down and established ourselves in Los Angeles, my parents and I were a family of Iranian-Armenian refugees who had come to America from Tehran at the tail end of the 80s with no real grasp of what we were arriving in. My earliest memories of life post-arrival revolved around the birth of my sister (the first one of us to be born in America) and going to the airport to greet extended relatives, the uncles, aunts, grandparents, and cousins who at first felt like strangers, each one having made the journey to new lives.
For several years, we didn’t feel any pull to participate. And then that changed, in the way that things change. Thanksgiving came unannounced to our house, a quiet indoctrination into American culture, a sign of adaptation with no beginning or end.
Though we didn’t understand what the day represented, we were navigating a new country and its customs, and so we drew comfort from being in each other’s presence. It was good, a once-a-year excuse not only to get together, but to feel American, to struggle with these unfamiliar culinary traditions. Stuffing, cranberry sauce, and glazed ham… our Thanksgiving table never looked like the ones I saw on TV sitcoms or commercials, the ones I subconsciously mined for American social and fashion cues. But it was our Thanksgiving table.
The turkey was there. My mom learned to perfect it by watching Food Network cooking shows, coating the bird in her own arsenal of spices bought at the ethnic supermarkets catering to L.A.’s Iranian and Armenian communities aching for a taste of home. But there were also several variations of fluffy basmati rice, bejeweled with saffron, barberries, and slivers of almonds and orange peel; baba ghanoush and yogurt dip replaced green beans and brussels sprouts, and for many years, there was no pumpkin pie (or pie of any kind). Instead, our dessert table consisted of baklava trays, pomegranates, and dates, shared amongst all of us while drinking tea.
Over the years, these “traditional” foods have never gone away. They are how we stay alive, link us back to life before circumstance brought us here, but also one to a past disrupted by cycles of migration that created a diaspora, leaving little room to feel a sense of complete permanence in one place.
Thanksgiving was just another opportunity to acknowledge where we came from. At the dinner table, through parsley and sumac, we regenerated.
More American foods have made their way onto our menu. The most recent introduction was candied yams, a curiosity not everyone has managed to appreciate. But it’s still the tahdig – a layer of crust at the bottom of the rice pot – that everyone looks forward to and fights over every year. Stuffing has been completely vetoed, a concept that never shook its strangeness.
Our ties to the U.S. are still new and fresh; we are still adapting, attempting to make sense of life in America, and Thanksgiving, too. My parents were tasked with trying to rebuild their lives, but my sister and I feel tasked with figuring out what it means to be American. Part of that process has involved acknowledging and exploring the underlying history of Thanksgiving and the indigenous communities of America, reflecting on the difficult to ignore parallel fates of genocide, colonization, trauma but also survival and resilience that we, as Americans of Armenian descent share with Native Americans.
Thanksgiving has gone through an evolution, its meaning and food changing over the years to better reflect who we were, who we became and who we now are. It’s a day where we’ve made room for all the parts and places that have shaped and nourished us to exist together. The suitcases we arrived with are in the garage, tucked away amongst the kind of material accumulation which occurs as a result of living in the U.S. for decades, but we’re still in the process of unpacking and addressing the hidden histories of those places – both Iran and America – and all the truths they carry that have been lost or left unsaid.
Popula is 100% ad-free, reader-supported journalism accountable only to you. Every dollar of your subscription goes straight to our work. Thank you for supporting Popula.
Hmm, looks like you don’t have MetaMask activated!
If you know what MetaMask is and have it installed, activate MetaMask and refresh:
If that doesn't make sense to you, click here:
The MetaMask window should have popped up and asked if you want Popula to have access to your MetaMask. Click the blue CONFIRM button.
Don’t see the MetaMask window? Click here to request it again:
Your MetaMask extension is running, but for privacy purposes you have to allow us to connect to your MetaMask wallet.
You need to connect to the Main Net before you can actually tip. Click on your MetaMask icon so the window pops up, then select ‘Main Ethereum Network’ from the dropdown.
How much do you want to tip?
You can adjust either amount to see how much ETH or USD you’ll be sending.
You can adjust the tip amount in the MetaMask popup window before confirming the transaction.
Popula’s authors contribute 5% of their tips to Popula to help with the overhead of running the tipping system.
Author participation in the Popula tipping system is optional; if an author declines to participate in the tipping system, your tip will be refunded to you in full within 60 days.
Your MetaMask window has popped up now, and you need to confirm the transaction.
Hit that blue 'Confirm' button to make it happen!
Did you reject the transaction by accident? Want to adjust your tip amount? Click here:
Maybe you’re not quite comfortable with this yet?
That transaction didn’t go through for some reason.
Try clicking on the MetaMask button in your browser bar (looks like this: ) and see if you have any transactions listed at the bottom of the popup. If you don’t see the tip you just tried to leave, then try again:
Or just want to ask us about it? We’ look into it personally for you.
Thank you so much for your tip, and for your direct support of journalism. The author will appreciate it a lot, and so do all of us at Popula.
You can see your transaction logged in MetaMask. Just click the MetaMask button in your browser bar—this one: —and your transaction will be listed at the bottom of the popup.
You can also track the transaction on the Etherscan website. It usually takes under a minute for the transaction to process, and you’ll get a notification from MetaMask when it’s done.Track on Etherscan
If you have any questions at all, please let us know!
All set?Home to Popula, please!
We know this cryptocurrency stuff is new and weird. We’re here to help you understand. Ask us email@example.com
ETH is Ether, a popular cryptocurrency generated on the Ethereum blockchain.
You’ll need some Ethereum cryptocurrency (ETH) in a MetaMask wallet in order to tip an author. Currently it’s not possible to tip in other cryptocurrencies, or in dollars or other fiat currencies.
For a comprehensive FAQ to help get you started, please visit our help page, “How to Tip Your Favorite Authors with Cryptocurrency on Popula!”
If you have any questions at all, please let us know!