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A Taste of Thanksgiving Tradition

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For Times journalists who cover food and cooking, the holiday season can be one of the busiest and most demanding times of the year. When they are not writing about food, flexing their culinary skills in the test kitchen, developing recipes or trying out new dishes, they still make time to celebrate with their families — and level-up their own Thanksgiving spreads. Below, three Times journalists, Priya Krishna, a reporter for the Food section; Eric Kim, a cooking writer for the Food section and NYT Cooking; and Genevieve Ko, a senior editor for the Food section and NYT Cooking, share how they prepare for, and spend, the holiday.

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?
PRIYA KRISHNA: For as long as I can remember, we have treated Thanksgiving like a big family gathering, where we have a mostly Indian feast. My mom makes all of her greatest hits: kaddu, matar paneer, chole and, interestingly enough, cranberry sauce (we treat it like a chutney). My fiancé makes pies for dessert, and my mom makes shrikhand.

Since Thanksgiving is the one time a year my cousins are all together, we always celebrate Bhai Dooj that day — it’s a Hindu celebration of siblings (it was Nov. 6 this year). We feed each other sweets and exchange gifts. It’s always one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving Day.

Are there any nonfood-related special Thanksgiving traditions you have?
ERIC KIM: I go hard on the Thanksgiving specials of old Nickelodeon shows like “Hey Arnold!,” “Rugrats” and “As Told by Ginger.” When I was growing up in the ’90s, the children’s programming on that network had such incredible storytelling. But I’m also a nostalgic person and love reliving those touchstones of holiday television.

Have any of your Thanksgiving recipes been passed down?
GENEVIEVE KO: My parents immigrated to the United States for college and were the ones to host the meal for our extended family throughout my childhood. Because we didn’t have generations of Thanksgiving history to build upon, we served whatever we wanted year after year, often incorporating Chinese dishes into the mix.

How do you prepare for the holiday?
KRISHNA: Despite the fact that I am a food writer who has also written a cookbook of my family recipes, my mom can be pretty territorial about preparing the Thanksgiving meal. She often does most of the cooking the day of — she makes it look very easy, casually preparing a meal for 20 to 30 people without really dirtying the kitchen or starting way in advance. It’s helpful that Indian food often tastes even better the next day. What we do very early is set the table: My dad buys poinsettias and we take out our fancy plateware. Having the table set up nicely, even if it’s a few days before Thanksgiving, always makes the house feel festive.

How early do you prepare?
KO: Because I’ve been developing and testing Thanksgiving recipes for food media for nearly two decades, I’ve gotten used to making the Thanksgiving meal frequently from summer onward each year and through that, I learned to treat it like any other dinner party. To get everything on the table on time, I prep for the meal as I would prep for professional cooking roles — by making checklists of what needs to get done and when. I usually have everything shopped by Tuesday, prep a bit on Wednesday, then cook on Thursday.

Do you have a secret hack?
KIM: When I was growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, my cousins and I always did all of our Thanksgiving shopping the night before (on Wednesday). I can’t speak for the grocery stores in other areas, but in our town, it’s sort of a local secret (and I guess not so secret anymore) that late-night Wednesday Thanksgiving shopping is actually when the stores are the emptiest — there are maybe one or two other shoppers. Perhaps it’s reverse psychology, because who would be senseless enough to wait that late to do the shopping? (This guy.)

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