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Residents share their ideas for spicing up those tired Thanksgiving staples
For many, holiday feast means more than turkey and pumpkin pie
Food Deadline Thanksg boae
Spicy cranberry salsa, right, and sauce. Cranberry salsa is perfect with tortilla chips before the big Thanksgiving meal, while cranberry sauce is a staple with the main course.

The art of cooking has been around since people discovered they needed — and wanted — to eat.

Cooking the same thing over and over becomes monotonous, but creative cooks have invented ways to keep recurring dishes fresh.

With the Thanksgiving holidays around the corner, most expect to have fall favorites: turkey, dressing (or stuffing), squash, yams, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

However, who deemed it necessary to have a revolving menu for the Thanksgiving holidays? Must busied chefs always cook the same dishes, or are there other festive foods just as appetizing — if not more — than the traditional spread?

"I enjoy traditional cooking, making new recipes and experimenting with ingredients," said Eva Parks, the bookkeeper at Chestatee High School, who is widely known for her cooking ability.

Though she partakes in a seemingly traditional menu on Thanksgiving Day, Parks has many unique tricks up her sleeve.

"I love to cook and I have several ‘just for the holiday' selections that have been handed down in the family," she said. "My ‘must haves' are grandma's cranberry salad, corn pudding, candied sweet potatoes and an old-fashioned stack cake."

Grandma's cranberry salad is a play on traditional cranberry sauce — but with a twist.

"To make it, use both jelled and whole cranberries, apples, nuts and celery. Combine them in Jell-O — it's yummy," Parks said.

Another take on cranberry sauce? How about cranberry salsa. Spiced up with onion, jalapeno and cardamom then scooped up with tortilla chips, it makes an excellent appetizer before Tom's debut.

Her other holiday favorites include Mexican cornbread (with sweet and hot peppers and extra cheese), pecan crunchies and angel pound cake.

"I'm blessed to have an Appalachian background where my ancestors could prepare a feast over an open fire, using simple local elements," she said. "But, I'm thankful to be part of a generation that has modern kitchens and access to a worldwide array of ingredients. Combined, these factors allow me to create masterpieces like an artist or experiment like a scientist."

One experiment, created with Thanksgiving leftovers, gives the American turkey a European flare.

"My turkey tettrazini changes a humble turkey from American to Italian," Parks said. "It uses leftover turkey, spaghetti noodles and a homemade cheese sauce (or store bought for those in a hurry). Combine them with chopped onions and lots of garlic and it's amazing."

Other great Thanksgiving dishes include grit dressing, pumpkin spice cake, fried turkey and sweet potato casserole instead of their traditional counterparts.

Parks is not the only one bringing ethnic influences to American cuisine. In fact, though Thanksgiving is an American holiday, it is celebrated in this country by people from all nationalities.

"I got all of my Thanksgiving recipes from my first neighbor when I moved to the U.S.A.," said Spanish teacher Ana Maria Tipton. "I have talked to some of my Latino students and they celebrate Thanksgiving because they have no work or school. However, they eat their typical food — enchiladas, tamales; they don't necessarily have turkey."

One Chestatee student, sophomore Misael Arteaga, celebrates Thanksgiving in a multicultural way.

"My mom is from Honduras and my dad is from Spain. Sometimes we celebrate Thanksgiving the American way, but other times, we make food from those countries," Arteaga said.

Two popular holiday dishes in the Arteaga household are pupusas and paella.

"We'll make pupusas with beans and cheese and spicy fish paella; they're my dad's recipes," he said.

No matter one's cultural background, Thanksgiving is for everyone; and traditional recipes can be altered to match any tradition.

"We celebrate with our culture's food," said sophomore Sandra Cruz. "My mom usually makes tamales because they're food for the cold seasons. We drink atole, a sweet, flavored milk that goes well with the spiciness of the tamale."

Junior Shelby Ventura enjoys another Thanksgiving custom that allows her to not only eat but play with her food.

"On Thanksgiving, my family has a pumpkin race where they roll the pumpkins down my aunt's hill. When they reach the bottom, they explode. We leave them there and they grow the next year," she said. "We'll use the new ones for our next race or roast their seeds for a fall snack."

Thanksgiving is a unique holiday embodying the American dream. It is not specifically nationalistic, spiritual or honorary, but instead, it has its own essence.

The first Thanksgiving almost 390 years ago allowed Pilgrims to give thanks for safe passage and religious freedom in the New World.

Though a much-evolved America today, there are still many things worth saying "thanks" for. One of the best ways to do this is over a home-cooked meal.

Lets face it, when most think of Thanksgiving, the thought of food comes soon after.