A Very Busy November…Happy Thanksgiving! (11/25/2021 by Joan Huang)

Since the beginning of November, our home has been entertaining our house guests with family members. I’ve been busy with cooking and enteerWe’re indeed very hospitable.

Also, when the US border opened on 11/8, my newly wedded niece and her husband booked plane tickets traveled from UK. As the aunt and the uncle, we were honored to be able to provide the honeymoon “resort” for the newlyweds and give my niece a milestone 30th birthday party in our garden.

Happy 30th Birthday to Becky!

​Recently, there were many upsetting news in terms of violences, which is worrisome. On the occasion of Thanksgiving holidays, we’re roasting the turkey to thank the Indians on this land, and hope that the beacon of democracy in America will always give us hope. I really like the following quartet. Different ethnicities sing a song together: America, the Beautiful! This is my ideal America!

Thirty five years ago, I flew over the Pacific Ocean from Shanghai to Los Angeles, the colorful and multi-ethnic second largest city in the United States.  When I arrived the campus of UCLA, for the first few days, I was culturally shocked with the demography of student body since I came from a homogeneous country.  Little by little, students of various skin colors could gather in a classroom to discuss same subjects; could eat in a cafeteria with joy and laughter.  In our “Analysis of Western Operas in the Twentieth Century” class, my professor asked us to take out our own musical instruments and create multiple collective projects “From the Micro World to the Macro World”.  It was an eye-opener and a marvelous education.  Just within weeks, I immediately eliminated racial barriers and made friends with my white brothers, black sisters, and classmates from all other ethnicities.  Five years ago, I composed a nonet entitled Coalescence to express my personal experience towards he United States as a polyglot  country: “The inspiration of the piece came from my ‘Word a Day’ on my desk calendar.  It says: “…come together and form one mass or whole…”  US is a polyglot country, I’ve benefited from other cultural heritages through my own various experiences in this ‘Melting Pot’”.

The five movements in “Fusion” are: 1. Peking Opera (Asian) ; 2. Jungle Song (African); 3. Greensleeves (European); 4. Cockroach Blue (Latino); 5. Dancing with Sheep (Australian).

Like several of my other compositions, Coalescence is also my attempt by mixing Chinese traditional instruments and percussion instruments from all over the world together.  There are 5 movements, I’ve adopted 5 folk songs from 5 different continents: Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Australia.  

Here is my Coalescence No. 4  “Cockroach Blue”

(Conductor: Frank Epstein, Clarinet: Alexis Lanz, Erhu: Tao He; Guzheng: Hui Weng and New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble)

Joan Huang: Coelescence No.4 “Cockroach Blue”

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year. Last year was so miserable. The unprecedented the epidemic has reduced the reunion of the relatives of more than 20 people to just us two and Gigi, and we roasted a big turkey with only two people. It is really unimaginable. This year Bill’s the children will be coming…

The following famous oil painting on Thanksgiving comes from the legendary American painter Norman Rockwell entitled “Freedom from Want”: 

“The painting was created in November 1942 and published in the March 6, 1943 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. All of the people in the picture were friends and family of Rockwell in Arlington, Vermont, who were photographed individually and painted into the scene. The work depicts a group of people gathered around a dinner table for a holiday meal. Having been partially created on Thanksgiving Day to depict the celebration, it has become an iconic representation for Americans of the Thanksgiving holiday and family holiday gatherings in general. The Post published Freedom from Want with a corresponding essay by Carlos Bulosan as part of the Four Freedoms series. Despite many who endured sociopolitical hardships abroad, Bulosan’s essay spoke on behalf of those enduring the socioeconomic hardships domestically, and it thrust him into prominence.

The painting has had a wide array of adaptations, parodies, and other uses, such as for the cover for the 1946 book Norman Rockwell, Illustrator. Although the image was popular at the time in the United States and remains so, it caused resentment in Europe where the masses were enduring wartime hardship. Artistically, the work is highly regarded as an example of mastery of the challenges of white-on-white painting and as one of Rockwell’s most famous works.” (From Wikipedia)

 I remember I went his museum in Tanglewood when I was a composer fellow in 1993. It was such a memorable visit.  His style is realistic, humorous and vivid.  I love the way he portrayed the daily life of American people in colorful ways.  His paintings remind me of stage dramas and the figures on the painting come to live.

Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday in the United States and is equivalent to the Chinese New Year. As a multi-ethnic country, all immigrants from other continents are mostly thankful to the native Indians, who are the native settlers of America.

In 1621, a passenger ship “Mayflower” full of Puritans arrived at the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was winter, and the new immigrants who came to the New World were hungry and cold, and fell sick and died. Gradually, with the help of the local indigenous Indians, the new immigrants learned to hunt, grow corn and pumpkins, and then have a good harvest. During the harvest celebrations, the new immigrants from Europe invited the native American Indians to thank God for the gift.

Therefore, since 1941, the United States has set Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November each year, with a day off, and Friday “Black Friday” usually marks the beginning of the Christmas gift shopping.

The weather in Altadena has been particularly good these days, the sun shines on the body as warm as spring. Look the sky, it is sapphire blue and the herringbone-shaped geese flying south. Taking Gigi hiking in the nearby Eaton Canyon National Park, I feel especially fantastic. It is the season with orange persimmons and oranges. Although the Covid-19 has reached its peak again, we have become accustomed to a quiet and isolated life at home.  For the past 30 years of our marriage, we have almost never missed the Thanksgiving feast of the family reunion of 30 people at the house of Bill’s niece Linda, then recent years at the house of Bill’s grand niece Kim.  Year after year, they were always memorable “turkey feasts” and we never forget. However last year the government did not allow family reunions. We could only celebrate the Thanksgiving alone, and only zooming with relatives and friends online.

Hiking with Gigi
Hiking with Gigi in our “Backyard” (Eaton Canyon National Park)

Although I have done countless kinds of American and Chinese banquets, the Thanksgiving banquet is still a novice. Last year it was the first time to cook a Thanksgiving meal during the epidemic. This year, I will continue to work hard to serve our family. The dining table has been set up:

I will cook a full set of “Thanksgiving Dinner” seriously. The advantage is that the leftover turkey can be used for many purposes.

Tonight’s “Turkey Feast” recipe will be listed as follow:


1) Lobster and Corn Chowder and Dinner Rolls

Lobster is among Bill’s favorite food.  I will make this first mouthwatering course as the prelude to the scrumptious Turkey entry.  Every sip and bite was very enjoyable, dipping dinner rolls to the rich chowder while smelling the aroma rising from the oven. 

2) Maple-Ginger Roast Turkey

In the traditional Thanksgiving banquet, turkey is the main dish on the table, usually stuffed with a “stuffed belly” (a food mixed with giblets, bread cubes, various vegetables and seasonings). Then bake in the oven for several hours. Since there are only two of us, I bought the smallest turkey  possible (but it still weights 16 pounds). I will roast the turkey according to the recipe from Sheila Lukins’ cooking book Celebrate!

3) Referring to this short video, I’ll make a few more dishes:

4) Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is essential for Thanksgiving. The local Indians taught the new immigrants to grow corn and pumpkins in early days.  During the harvest season, the new immigrants used their harvested pumpkins to make pies to thank the native Indians.

During Thanksgiving, which is different from previous years, we would like to be particularly grateful for the heroic dedications of the medical workers who are saving lives at the forefront of the epidemic.  Also, we’re thankful to the people who risk their lives in important positions such as supermarkets, pharmacies etc.  

We also want to be especially grateful for the new vaccine invented by scientists. At the end of the tunnel, we finally saw the light at the end of  the tunnel.  Pfizer, Moderna, J & J, etc. have been keeping reporting good news, bringing the hope to people around the world. At the same time, also the Covid medicines are also in sight. Both Bill and I have had boosters a month ago, and we hope that we have a certain degree of immunity.

Happy Thanksgiving to our families and friends around the world! Knowing that the nearly past 2 years are extremely difficult, but we believe after the cold winter, the spring will be auspicious, promising and blooming again!

I’m ending my blog with the Thanksgiving message from President Biden and the First Lady:

Published by Joan Huang

I'm a freelance composer living in bucolic Altadena, the suburb of Los Angeles. Besides music making, I love cooking, drinking wines with friends, gardening, hiking and traveling.

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