My first Thanksgiving with white people
"When I began to meet black people who didn't cook soul food and whites that did..."
November 16th, 2011
11:22 PM ET

My first Thanksgiving with white people

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs
By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

I was told the substance in the glass casserole dish in front of me was potato salad – but I wasn’t buying it.

Why was it white?

Why was it smooth?

And where was the red stuff that goes on top?

It was 1998, and I was having my first Thanksgiving dinner with white people.

Now on the one hand going to his parents house for the holiday was a very good thing. I was in an interracial relationship and we had progressed to the point in which he felt comfortable doing so. But on other hand, I was a bit troubled when I walked through the door and didn’t smell greens cooking. Were we too early? Were they in the fridge?

As I was being introduced, I took a nice deep breath and...nope. Not a whiff of collards, or turnips or even the Tito Jackson of greens—mustard. For a moment I thought I had wandered into an episode of the Twilight Zone or maybe my mother had hired a witch doctor to put a hex on me because she was mad I wasn’t coming home.

I mean, it was Thanksgiving.

Read LZ Granderson's full column on CNN's Eatocracy blog

Filed under: Race
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Alex

    Ugh, this article is terrible. Blah topic, horrible writing, not flushed out.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. It's All Good

    I am married to a black man. We have a biracial son. I was introduced to "soul food" the first time he brought me to meet his family. They had greens, black-eyes peas and ham hocks, and, of course, chitlins. As the bowl was placed before me, the wonderful aroma of bacon wafted up to my nose. There were little wan ton-like noodles (?) floating in the opaque broth. I looked up from my second or third bite (God, this was good!) to see everyone around the table watching me intensely. "What?" I asked, nonplussed at their scrutiny. Smirks and grins and snorts. "How do you like it?", I was asked. "What is it?", I inquired,"some sort of bacon wan-ton soup?, because it's wonderful!" More laughter, bigger smiles. My boyfriend's sister broke the news; "nope, it's chitlins!", she exclaimed proudly. I looked at her blankly. "Chitlins. What are chitlins?" More laughter and snorts. " Intestines of a pig!" she proudly replied. I looked around the table at all these black people smiling in amusement. More black people than I had ever eaten with (I had only eaten with one before then- my boyfriend friend). And the little white girl from the all-white suburbs, the all-white schools and all-white college grinned and laughed back. "Well", I said, "it's the best chitlins I've ever eaten!" and promptly asked for another bowl. Everyone applauded and laughed with me and I knew then that it had been a test and knew from their approving smiles that I had passed with flying colors. My first introduction to "soul food" was as pleasant surprise. And I know that it was a test, because in all the 22 intervening years of marriage to my black husband, I have NEVER seen chitlins on a dinner table since.

    December 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. smartypants

    I AM BLACK, born and raised in Africa, NOT in the US, which I have come to appreciate accounts for some glaring differences between me and Akatas, who refer to me, time and again (in the 10 years I have lived anmd worked in AMerica), as "too white". I proudly take that as a compliment. WHY? Because it means my english is proper, my nails are a decent length and if I wear nail polish, it doesn't scream calling attention to unsanitary looooong hideous nails. Because I speak to others in a respectable decent volume, without shouting, being in their face, forever accusing the government or white people of trying to put me down. Because every single employer I have worked for, tells me in the most complimentary of ways, that I am nothing like the black people they have previously hired or worked with – I actually work and try to learn and improve myself.
    So is it any wonder then, that Akatas accuse Africans of having a chip on our shoulders? News flash – if it means that when we are compared to you, we stand out (and in a good way), YES! And again I say YES!!! I have a chip on my shoulders – I know I didn't choose where to be born or how to be raised, but I'm so VERY proud of my heritage and my upbringing. Thanks mum & Dad – I have a newfound appreciateion for you and all you did for us since coming to AMerica.

    December 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Indiadeena

      and what does this have to do with this blog? I understand you i guess, but i think this comment is stemmed in the ignorant notion that all black americans are the same. we are as diverse as the world. people like to catogorize us all by the perceived "worse" of us and we are all individuals with flaws. if it makes you feel better to be "better" then go ahead by all means, but not every black ameriacan person thinks that people who are articulate are "white" those people who think you are white are not the norm and i would also question the people who would feel the need to congratulate your difference from other black people. why does it matter?

      December 11, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Beatrice Latrice Jones

    btw- I could invite him to a dinner he would like. Collards, cornbread, roasted ham and beans and fruit punch. He would never forget that dinner, but I don't know if he would keep up with me in conversation and might want to leave early to go play his xbox.

    November 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Beatrice

    CNN's attempt to gain more black readers. Sadly he write about nothing intelectual or important. Black women love to pride themselves on the "weave" , at least the women he is trying to appeal too and fat is a word said daily and often. Cooking, dancing, trips to the salon. Where did this boy go to school ? Under a rock ? They need a get someone with a broader range in all topics. He is holding down the gap.

    November 29, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. American

    Granderson is obsessed with his race. It's not normal to be that obsessed about yourself. Turn that energy into getting a degree or learning a trade and starting a business. You're acting like a child.

    November 29, 2011 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. nobackofthebusforme

    I do not understand the point of this article. What color were the potatoes suppose to be? Ridiculous. I am multi-racial black. My mom is from the south originally. My siblings and I are well-rounded-we weren't raised to think there is 'white' food and 'black' food. Greens are OK but they are not on the top of my list of favorites.

    Granderson, since you have a voice for 'black' people can you try to make it intelligent. I thought greens were regional, not racial. BTW, I do not like grits, I do not like ribs and we were not allowed to put hot sauce on everything.

    November 28, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      I am white and grew up in NY and then the deep south. I was one of the only three white kids in my class, and used to get beat-up on the playground and bloodied everyday by the certain kids till I learned to fight back. Soul food is my fave, and soul music and R&B. I don't feel different towards other races or all he complains about but LZ Ganderson seems to feel very awkward towards mixing with other races. His style of writing is bad for CNN.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
      • Shannon


        I couldn't agree with you more. I am a black woman from the south. I have had Thanksgiving dinner with black and white people. I really don't notice a huge difference. It is time to move on from the racial differences.

        LZ – It is time to move on from the racial differences. PLEASE write something that is intelligent and relevant. Lastly, there are cultural differences among the races from one region to another. MOVE ON! We are tired of it. This article may have been relevant in 1970, not now.

        December 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Blah

    for several years i was the only white person at a black thanksgiving. were i to write about it, my story wouldn't be about the silly differences in food but about how much fun i had and how welcome i felt even though i didn't 'fit.'

    November 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Guest2

    It's just the food those people have on Thanksgiving. I'm white and love greens at Thanksgiving, while I lived in LA (Lower Alabama) every Thanksgiving we also had Gumbo, and as my wife is Filipina, we also would have rice and Lumpia. When I was younger My family lived up in NJ, Black or white I didn't see anyone outside of my own family eating greens. Different parts of the country eat different things, it's not always about race. A CNN post today is talking about in Northern Cali they eat Crabs at Thanksgiving.

    November 23, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • nobackofthebusforme

      Thanks for rounding this out. I grew up in Washington State. We were blessed to be around people of all races and ethnicities. We were also raised to not go around ask "Ohhh what is that I never saw that before." Greens are regional. I like my moms but they are not at the top of my list and I don't know how to cook them. I was raised on Asian food. Thank goodness my mom provided variety in our diet.

      November 28, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. Moe

    LZ – Have you ever posted an article that doesnt have to do with race?

    November 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. shespeaks

    This articles is neither racist or without humor. It is a very funny take on culural differences that exist in the US based on race and ethnicity. I get it. If you all got off of your PC high-horse, you would get it too. As a black woman, I have had this first very different experience at a white household just as a white friend of mine had an equally shocking and different experience at my house. It's part of the country. It's what makes us unique and fabulous. So, get over yourselves and pass the sweet potatoe pie (not pumpkin 🙂

    November 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • deutsche001

      I arrived in the USA in 1981 married to a black soldier; I hated dresing, collard greens and sweet potatoe pie. I now sell them every year and make good money doing so.

      November 23, 2011 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  12. Shauna

    I'm not usually a big fan of Granderson, but at least click on the link people and read his full article before responding......

    November 21, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. Latanda

    This is the stupidest thing I have ever read. And I'm black, from the South. The Deep South. Our potato salad is white. And I have no idea what the red stuff on top is supposed to be.

    November 20, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      I agree, I have know earthly idea what he is talking about with the red stuff on top,and Im from N.C..

      November 26, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
      • Guest

        I Think he is referring to paprika sprinkled on top.

        November 26, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • nobackofthebusforme

      I agree, this is the worst drivel. I am not from the south but my mom is. You would think as a journalist he would have been exposed to all different types of food at this point. Sounds narrow minded and ignorant. Give me a break "What is the red stuff".

      I hope he doesn't think he is speaking for black america at large.

      November 28, 2011 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
    • smartypants

      @ Latanda – of course you're black :). Who else would have a name like Latanda?

      December 1, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SocialistZero

    Man, how racist would this be if a white man wrote about his Thanksgiving with black people. But since it's a black guy writing about white people, it must be ok! Right?

    November 20, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • nobackofthebusforme

      I don't know how racist it is, but it is VERY ignorant. Trust me, the potatoes at my house were white. Greens are a regional dish, not based on race. This is drivel. To be fair I think he is trying to demonstrate the possible differences. However, since I'm 'black' with a mom from the south, I don't agree with him. She didn't cook southern food for us because of health concerns and she wanted us to be well-rounded.

      November 28, 2011 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. Guest

    Agree totally
    I support equal rights for all,black and white,straight and gay,but it seems thats all this guy has to write about.
    Its great that you're black,gay and proud,dont be like a teenage girl about it

    November 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Luise

    That had to be awkward and funny at the same time ,and I love you men I always watch you .

    November 16, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |