This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Eveline Kaufusi is not going to let her family forget.
After the family's Thanksgiving prayer each year, Kaufusi reminds her relatives about the family's flight from Tonga to Salt Lake City. In 1972, she brought nine children with her on the trip, changing planes three times while crossing the Pacific Ocean to reunite with relatives. Few of the newcomers spoke English, which made job hunting and school difficult. Kaufusi couldn't find the groceries she needed to cook. And the children often cried about missing their homeland.
"I always remember the hardships I went through to get here," says Kaufusi, holding back tears. "We have a lot of blessings here we have to be thankful for."
This month will mark the 33rd Thanksgiving Kaufusi will celebrate with her relatives around a dinner table filled with tropical dishes and a story about a family that never gave up.
As part of the family's Thanksgiving tradition, Kaufusi tells her 50 or so relatives about the family's journey from Tonga to Utah. She compares it to that of the pilgrims and Mormon pioneers, groups looking for a better life, opportunities and enduring life struggles.
"I will never forget those days, how the children cried to go back to Tonga," Kaufusi says about the family's first few years in Utah. "I was looking toward their future. Now, they are happy we did not go back."
Kaufusi says the family's Thanksgiving dinner at her house is different from its gatherings during its first few years, when a turkey was nowhere to be found.
"I had heard of the Mayflower story, but I didn't know there was a holiday to celebrate it here," she says.
One year, Kaufusi remembers her son's teacher coming by after Thanksgiving with a turkey. Her son had told the class that his family didn't have turkey because they couldn't afford it.
"I had to keep a turkey on the table after that," says the 61-year-old Kaufusi.
Kaufusi always makes a turkey for the family's Thanksgiving feast, but no one eats it.
"It's a waste of time because the children don't enjoy it - only in sandwiches," she jokes.
Pasa Tukuafu, Kaufusi's brother who was 8 years old when the family came to Utah, says the turkey in their family is symbolic of their appreciation.
"It's not the food we long for," the now 41-year-old Tukuafu says of the big bird. "It's the food we use to pay respect to the United States."
At Kaufusi's home, instead of stuffing, mashed potatoes and rolls, the family enjoys roasted pig, grilled barbecue lamb ribs, Mahi Mahi, oysters and lu pulu, a corned beef dish made with coconut milk. For dessert, pumpkin pie is replaced with puteni, a spice cake with custard sauce.
"The more variety you have, the better dinner you have," Kaufusi says with a smile.
Real Chinese food is perfect for thanks
For Shu-Mei and Ping-Fu Tsao, Thanksgiving is about serving their loved ones and wishing them good health for the coming year.
That's part of the reason why the Tsaos have served boiled dumplings - or shui jiao - on the U.S. holiday ever since 1976 when they moved from Taiwan to Utah.
Shu-Mei Tsao makes the boiled dumplings, a traditional dish during Chinese New Year, for the family's Thanksgiving celebration because both holidays are about spending time with family and looking forward to a new year. (Chinese New Year is on Jan. 29.)
"We just put both together," Shu-Mei Tsao says. "The whole country is celebrating, so why not add our celebration? It's the best time to say thank you."
For 29 years, Shu-Mei Tsao and her sister have merged the traditional turkey meal and Chinese dishes during lunch on Thanksgiving.
Kathy Jenn, Shu-Mei Tsao's sister, makes the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, and pumpkin and fruit pies.
The Tsaos make 10 Chinese dishes, including, Beijing kao ya (roast duck), suan la tung (hot and spicy sour soup), luo bo gao (turnip cake) and ba bao sun (eight treasures rice pudding). In the Chinese culture, the dumpling's shape symbolized prosperity. When people make the minced meat dumpling filling, the sound from chopping the meat is supposed to scare away evil spirits, Shu-Mei Tsao says.
Each year, at 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, both meals are put out on the Tsaos' wooden dining room table for about 25 relatives and friends.
Before the guests eat, the family often makes a toast of thanks, using Ping-Fu Tsao's homemade sweet red wine. The Tsaos always wait and eat last. After lunch, some people watch football and others play Ma-Jiang, a Chinese strategy game.
The couple of 42 years says they enjoy cooking the feast for their loved ones each year because they want to show them how much they mean to them.
"When we see people happy that makes us happy," Ping-Fu Tsao says in Chinese through an English translator. "That means it was good food."
It also is a way for them to show their appreciation for all the hard work the family put into the Tsaos' former business, Golden Gate Restaurant. The Chinese-American eatery was open for 22 years in Sandy until the couple retired in 2000.
For Shu-Mei Tsao, Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to teach the younger generation about Chinese-Taiwanese foods in hopes that they carry on the family's Thanksgiving tradition of dumplings as well as turkey.
"We can't find good Chinese food anywhere else," she says jokingly. "I make it so they will know what real Chinese food tastes like."
Salvadorans dor the turkey thing-- with a twist
When Eileen Amezquita started school in California, the then-12-year-old didn't know what the big deal was about celebrating turkeys.
Her peers and teachers wouldn't stop talking about Thanksgiving and eating turkey. But Amezquita, who had just moved from El Salvador, was sad because she didn't understand what was going on. At her house, no one was excited about celebrating anything.
"You come here and you want to fit into the American culture," says 30-year-old Amezquita. ''So I told my mom, 'We need a turkey.' ''
Now, 18 years later, Amezquita is doing her best to teach her children about the importance of knowing their Salvadoran roots as well as embracing U.S. traditions and holidays.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, Amezquita says she and the other adults in her family observe the holiday, but they really could do without it. They celebrate it to show their respect for the United States and for the children.
"My children are American. That's all they know," says the mother of four sons, ages 4 to 14. "We want them to feel comfortable to be in this country."
Still, Amezquita, who moved to Utah from California three years ago, says the family's Thanksgiving dinner has a Salvadoran twist, and she is carrying on a tradition that her mother started almost 20 years ago.
Since Amezquita's relatives had no idea about Thanksgiving their first year in California, the family didn't celebrate it.
So the next year her mother threw a party and invited relatives and new immigrants who didn't know much about the holiday.
Her mother made mashed potatoes, Spanish rice, pumpkin pies and Salvadoran breads. Instead of the sliced poultry, she roasted five turkeys and made pan con pavo (turkey on bread), a traditional Salvadoran sandwich served during holiday feasts. It is stuffed with shredded turkey and lettuce, sliced radishes, cucumbers and tomatoes, and dressed with salsa. After dinner, people chatted and danced for the rest of the night.
Amezquita is planning a similar Thanksgiving fiesta this year for her employees at Mi Casita Mexican Restaurant and Seafood, 1625 W. 700 North.
To Amezquita, Thanksgiving means being with family and being grateful for her blessings. So she wants to make sure her employees, many who do not have relatives in Utah, have somewhere they can go on Thanksgiving Day.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to be able to serve them," she says. "I'm grateful that I can help people."