For this Thanksgiving holiday, musician Hrishikesh Hirway, host of the podcast “Song Exploder,” offers his thoughts on the common traditions that bring us together:
Before I was born, my parents didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, not until my sister and I came into their lives. Suddenly, these Indian immigrants had Americans for kids.
And in the early ’80s one day, after making turkeys out of construction paper in school, I asked if we could have a Thanksgiving dinner. And they said yes.
My dad learned how to cook a turkey, and we invited some of our family friends over – other Indian families. So, in addition to stuffing and mashed potatoes, we had a full Indian potluck.
The next year, we did it again, and that was it: It became a tradition.
A couple years later, my mom introduced a special dessert into the menu: Mango Pie. It was made with Alphonso mango pulp, something you can really only find in Indian grocery stores. It’s imported in these big aluminum cans, and it has a bright, punchy, sweetness.
She would mellow that flavor out by mixing it with Cool Whip and cream cheese to make a custard filling; then, she’d pour that into a graham cracker crust.
It was, and still is, the best dessert I’ve ever had.
In 2020, the week before Thanksgiving, my mom passed away after years of illness. We couldn’t gather with others for her funeral. It was really hard, and Thanksgiving that year just didn’t feel like Thanksgiving.
But last year, my wife and I hosted Thanksgiving again, at our house. And I made my mom’s Mango Pie. For me, it’s a way to remember her, and a way to share my upbringing with others.
A wonderful thing that happened before my mom passed away was that my friend Samin Nosrat, the chef and author, wrote an article for The New York Times all about my mom’s pie. She created a gourmet version of my mom’s humble recipe, and it got published, with my mom’s name right there.
And suddenly, people everywhere started making Mango Pie.
I’m still trying to find ways to share this little piece of my mom’s story with the world. This year, the wonderful Portland ice cream company, Salt & Straw, is making an ice cream flavor based on her recipe. It’s called Mom’s Mango Pie.
My mom, like so many moms, gave me a sense of who I am through food. She brought joy into my life and other people’s lives through her cooking. And I’ll always be thankful for that.
For more info:
- “Song Exploder” Podcast
- Watch the series “Song Exploder: How Music Gets Made” on Netflix
- Salt & Straw’s Mom’s Mango Pie Ice Cream
Story produced by Amol Mhatre. Editor: Mike Levine.
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And head to New York Times Cooking for more delicious Thanksgiving recipes.