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Thanksgiving Writing Activity

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Aja Koester
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Thanksgiving Writing Activity

I just read the excerpt from the sociologist Fei Xiatong written in the 1940's that was sent as a talking point by the U.S. China institute. He discusses his perspective on traditional American Thanksgiving fare.  

In an essay, "Eating in America," Xiatong wrote,

"The average American is not very particular about food. Even on a big holiday like Thanksgiving they do no more than just roast a turkey, a custom that is still carried on after over three hundred years. When I was a student in the United States, I lodged for a time at a Mrs. Mitchell's house in Colorado Springs. Several days before Thanksgiving the landlady's third daughter ran all around in a fluster declaring, 'We are going to have a big turkey dinner!' When the big bird was served on the table the atmosphere was special; it should have been fragrant and succulent, but when you cut into it and tasted it, whether breast or drumstick, it was tough, old, and leathery! Furthermore, as the turkey was not finished in one meal, the disaster was extended to another. Ever since I have not had kind feelings about turkey" (translation by Leo Lee and David Arkush).


This piece cracked me up and I was thinking it could make for a great talking or writing point as a quick warm-up with students, either for Thanksgiving or not. This piece could be used to introduce a writing or discussion activity where students recall an experience of trying something new. I think many people can relate to this moment of trying something different and not liking it, whether it be from another culture or just something you did not grow up with. I love Xiatong's frankness and ability to make his distaste humorous. For my students, I could see them really appreciating how this particular piece is written from someone critiquing American culture, because I often hear their sentiments of feeling like their culture is outcasted or critiqued. I think this excerpt brings to light the idea that it is ok to try new things and not even necesarilly like them.