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Families revamp Thanksgiving traditions

WASHINGTON – Gathering with friends and family to give thanks with a hearty meal is an American tradition.

But like the United States’ ever-changing complexion, the Thanksgiving Day dinner is also changing, says Brian Bear, corporate chef for Amphora Group.

Amphora served about 2,000 turkey dinners last Thanksgiving. A team of nine begin cooking 400 turkeys at 4 a.m. to create those dinners and to serve eaters at the group’s diner in Herndon, Bear says.

Despite all that cooking, Bear looks forward to the feast day.

“My birthday falls on Thanksgiving every three years, so it’s always been my favorite holiday,” he tells WTOP.

And it’s a holiday that all can enjoy — and update.

As new groups of immigrants come to the states, they bring their home country’s traditions with them, supplementing the traditional turkey and mashed potatoes. First Italian and Greek families added lasagna or spanakopita. Now families from Pakistan and the Middle East add their own twist to the holiday standards, Bear says.

Palates and diets are also changing. And cooks should consider providing vegetarian-friendly options like grilled vegetables. For guests with a carbohydrate-free or gluten-free diet, cornstarch can be used to thicken gravy instead of flour, Bear says.

Families also tend to eat in shifts on Thanksgiving, eating with one side of the family, then visiting with friends. And often families who share this holiday don’t get together for Christmas, Bear says.

“You want to make sure that Thanksgiving has its proper place in the rotation. You want to make sure it stands out.”

The catering and restaurant enterprise now takes orders for late night “brunch,” so people can eat before they go shopping to take advantage of those early bird specials and door busters, he says.

Others enjoy a cocktail hour, then watch football, followed by dinner, he says.

“Gone are the days when you get stuffed and go to sleep,” he says.”People are spreading it out.”

Megan Cloherty contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)