Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!!

This Thanksgiving is a bit more emotional for me than past Thanksgivings. This year has been so great. I’m amazed at the fact that it has been 11 years since I moved to the U.S. from Turkey. At that time I could NEVER, ever have dreamed that my stay in this country was going to be long term. Although I am away from my family, I have a great family here, and am thankful they have accepted me as if I am one of their daughters. I have a great husband who is fun, thoughtful, loving, a good listener, not too much of a talker, and (usually) laid-back and calm… which is a very good complement to my talkative, Speedy Gonzales–like hurried personality (with a dash of Turkish temper).

One of the reasons that this year has been great is because I became a U.S citizen!! It was a long, 5-6 year ordeal that started after my wedding, and now it’s done! Also, I got my professional engineering license this year, after a much dreaded 8-hour exam… you can only understand how miserable it was if you sit in a cold, warehouse room with a couple hundred people for 8 hours, with no verbal interaction except to ask each other with blurry, glazed eyes “What just happened??” at the end.

And all the little and big things in between that I am thankful for! I had NO idea that I would have such a life when I got on the flight from the Ataturk Airport that cold, cold January 4th morning in 2000!

I know, from time to time, establishing a life here is difficult for some of us who come here to study or to work. We are missing a lot of other things back in our native countries. We are torn souls, often longing for the things we used to have and the people we used to see, but we won’t really pull the plug and move back either. Sometimes that longing gets to us, and we find ourselves criticizing the life here in the  U.S. But then we visit our hometowns… and during our visits, we suddenly realize something that can be disturbing… we realize that we have changed! Because, we find ourselves criticizing certain things back home as well… Over the years, I have often asked “why can’t this place be more like the other?”, no matter where I am! It can be a crushing question, if you ponder a lot and let it get to you. I found out that the best thing is to accept both places as is and stop comparing. Life is much better when you stop comparing the things you cannot change.

So life is good… And I am thankful. I am thankful for this country because it provides so many opportunities for us to come here, improve ourselves and our lives… and to contribute to what makes America great.

Starting this Thanksgiving week, I have decided to do something for America in my own way, to say “Thank You”! I will cook America, dish by dish, each time pairing that dish with something from my native country, my family or myself… no comparisons, just tastes playing with and complementing each other in a good and relaxed way…

This idea started going around in my head when I was thinking about the culture and cuisine here in the South. I have to admit that when I came to the U.S., like many other international students I have known, I thought that the U.S. did not have much to offer in terms of cuisine. Hamburgers, fries, pizza, and all that fast food nation cliché was kind of set in our minds. It took me a good three or four years to open my eyes and realize that it is not true! There are so many stories… of food, of people, of traditions…

My idea was solidified when I saw Molly O’Neill’s new book: One Big Table… She published exactly what I needed! Recipes from all over America… Celebrating American cooking and changing people’s prejudgment about how Americans don’t know how to cook or won’t cook! And what is great about the book, it shows what makes America, America… All the different backgrounds, different immigration stories… Everybody brought a piece of their own cultures whenever they landed here, and somehow weaved this big American culture together. This country lets everyone be a part of it, but also everyone still has the freedom to preserve their roots, and pass it onto the next generation. Now I am proud to be a part of it!

And if you want to join me, you are more than welcome… This will be an ongoing journey, and I will post an American dish from One Big Table every week along with something from my kitchen.

Bring your American taste, along with your family’s taste, and let’s celebrate it every week! If you have not bought the book, go ahead and get One Big Table, pick a recipe each week and pair it with something you call yours… does not matter where it is coming from. And pair it with a story if you want! So we all know what kind of experiences you have had through living here or living abroad.

I had the great chance to meet with Molly O’Neill at one of her book signings and told her about what I wanted to do. I asked her if it is ok to summarize the recipes on my blog. She said YES! I do hope that she follows how we are doing here as well.

If you are interested, send me an email at ilke (dot) mcaliley (at) gmail (dot) com and I will add your blog to the list for this effort and follow your experience as well. Are you in?

Then, bring your dish and gather around the table. Let’s eat!

Happy Thanksgiving!

To start things off, I am posting pictures of my freshly baked biscuits. This is my version of combining the cuisine here with ingredients from Turkey: Herbed Biscuits with Black Olives. The recipe is from Meg’s blog, The Red Spoon. I just skipped the salami and scallions, added 1 tablespoon oregano and chopped pitted black olives from Aegean region of Turkey. Enjoy!


  1. by Kristin @ delishliving
    8:03 pm
    Nov 27, 2010

    what a great idea :) i look forward to reading all about it.
    as always, i love the personal touch that always comes with your posts. beautifully written!

  2. by Anitha Iyer
    6:24 pm
    Nov 30, 2010

    I couldn’t agree more on your comment about the constant comparison, which really just leads to a sense of dissatisfaction. It’s such a futile effort, and a negative thought pattern. So cheers to changing that this year and being thankful for what we have!! Love reading your blog Ilke, keep writing.

  3. by Ilke
    7:05 pm
    Nov 30, 2010

    Thanks for following the blog Anitha! Yes, let’s enjoy our time and be thankful :) Because the opposite just drains our energy!

  4. by Rich
    6:59 am
    Dec 2, 2010

    First of all – congratulations! That test seems like quite a task, but obviously you made it through with flying colors!

    And I’m glad I found your site at the beginning of your ‘cook through America’ project. That looks like a fun and enlightening one!

  5. by Dan Huntley
    8:48 am
    Dec 6, 2010

    Wonderful site, Ilke, just the spirit which Molly
    wrote her book. Reminds me of communal
    meals we shared by the Bosphorous.

  6. by Ilke
    4:25 am
    Dec 7, 2010

    Thanks Dan! We need to get together sometime! I want to listen to your Istanbul experience!

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