Thanksgiving is a traditional holiday of the US, Canada and some countries around the world, this is the day when family members cluster around together and enjoy a cozy dinner. And the indispensable dish on this day is the fragrant, golden roasted turkey. So besides turkey, what else is on the Thanksgiving menu?
Thanksgiving expresses gratitude for nature’s generosity for bountiful harvests. Therefore, this meal is considered the most hearty dinner of the year for Westerners.
What is Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is an annual national holiday celebrated mainly in the US, Canada, some islands in the Caribbean… The original meaning of this holiday is to celebrate and thank God for the bountiful harvest as well as other blessings of the past year.
In the US, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, but some people mistakenly believe this holiday takes place on the last Thursday of November. With respect to vehicular travel, the holiday is often the busiest of the year, as family members gather with one another.
When did the first Thanksgiving take place?
According to BBC History Magazine, the first traditional American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 in the Massachusetts colony of Plymouth when English pilgrims shared a meal with the native Indians, in recognition of their knowledge. be grateful to the Indians and celebrate the first harvest in the new land.
However, American historian Michael Gannon argues that the first Thanksgiving in North America actually dates back to half a century earlier in the state of Florida. He said that on September 8, 1565, following a religious ceremony, the Spaniards shared a common meal with the local tribe.
What to eat on Thanksgiving?
It’s one of the biggest celebrations in the American calendar and food plays a major role. Thanksgiving dinner is really the centrepiece of this annual festival. If you are a fan of American TV shows like Friends, you’ll definitely have seen what Thanksgiving dinner looks like.
Usually, Thanksgiving dinner parties are celebrated with family and friends, in which the main dish is roasted turkey (sometimes triple stuffed with three kinds of poultry – a chicken stuffed into a duck and then stuffed into a turkey).
Until now, the origin of turkey in Thanksgiving meals is still controversial with many theories. There is a theory that the Thanksgiving turkey dish is related to the Queen of England. During the 16th century, a fleet of Spanish warships sank on their way to attack England. While having dinner, Queen Elizabeth received the news and she was so happy that she asked for an extra roast goose. Meanwhile, some historians suggest that the first settlers in America were inspired by this event and turned a turkey in place of a goose.
Today, it is commonly believed that the colonists had hunted wild turkeys during the autumn of 1621 and since turkey is a uniquely scrumptious North American bird, it gained traction as the Thanksgiving meal of choice for Americans after President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
There were also other pragmatic reasons for eating turkey rather than chicken at a feast like Thanksgiving. The birds are large enough that they can feed a table full of hungry family members, and unlike chickens or cows, they don’t serve an additional purpose like laying eggs or making milk. Unlike pork, turkey wasn’t so common that it seemed like an unsuitable choice for a special occasion, either.
Besides turkey, what else is on the Thanksgiving feast?
A traditional Thanksgiving meal will include:
Turkey – of course
Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without the turkey. Turkeys are usually stuffed with chestnuts and/or sausage, ham and vegetables before being seasoned with herbs for flavour and smell. The turkey is then roasted in the oven or over an open fire. The best roasted turkeys are juicy and delicious. It requires a lot of cooking skills from the cook as turkeys are notorious for being dry.
Thanksgiving stuffing (also called dressing) is the food that goes inside the roasted turkey. It’s a mixture of bread, chopped celery, carrots, onions and sage and sometimes chestnuts, chopped bacon or sausage, grapes or apples.
All kinds of Potatoes
Whether baked or mashed, potatoes or sweet potatoes, potatoes are still an indispensable element of the Thanksgiving meal. After a protein-packed chicken dish, potatoes are a great addition to the meal, balancing the meal.
Mashed potatoes seem to be more favourable on the whole. Potatoes are boiled down to remove as much starch as possible then peeled and diced before being crushed (mashed) into a soft and creamy dish. Add some butter, milk and some garlic, and you have a perfect side dish!
Another version of potato dishes in America is marshmallow sweet potatoes. Believe it or not, this is a favourite Thanksgiving dish that’s baked all across the country for this feast. While fluffy white marshmallows definitely weren’t served up at the first thanksgiving dinner back in 1621, they’re often included today. All you need to do is roast some sweet potatoes, then mash them, add some butter and cinnamon, top with marshmallows, then stick them back in the oven until the marshmallows are browned on top.
You can’t serve up your Thanksgiving turkey without this sauce of the season! Cranberry sauce or cranberry jam is a sauce that is often served with turkey. Cranberries are simmered with sugar until thickened, forming a sour sauce to balance the fatty flavors of turkey and mashed potatoes.
Today, some people serve their cranberry sauce straight out of the can or jar, but if you have the time you might want to try and make your own. All you need to do is boil some sugar and water, add some cranberries, cook on a small flame until they pop, mash them and then let the sauce cool in the fridge.
A turkey will not be complete if the cook wastes the gravy and fat extracted while the meat is roasting in the oven. The gravy sauce is obtained after the grilled chicken has soaked in the spices and aromas of vegetables and herbs. The juice will then be cooked with flour or cornstarch to thicken.
The sweetness and richness of this sauce is the soul of turkey, keeping the meat from being pale and boring. This sauce is also poured onto the mashed potatoes to give them more flavor.
Green Bean Casserole
This is the dish everyone is expecting on the holidays and so easy to make. You only need 5 ingredients and 10 minutes to put them together: fresh-blanched green beans, mushroom sauce made out of real mushrooms, fried shallots/onions, soy sauce and milk. The creamy, smooth-sauce and unmatchable flavor combined with its simplicity makes Green Bean Casserole so appealing.
The end of the year is the time when the pumpkins are ripe and at the harvest. Americans make the most use of it in their daily meals. Almost everything has a pumpkin spice version! There’s pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice cookies… There are even pumpkin spice sausages and bagels! And Thanksgiving dinner is no exception with the delish pumpkin pie.
Pumpkin pie has a base mainly made of flour, butter and milk, and is crispy. The pumpkin filling is smooth, mixed with milk cream and spices. When serving, each slice of cake is usually accompanied by a little whipped cream and sprinkled with cinnamon powder.
Complete the meal with a delectable pecan pie, a pie that uses another ingredient that’s harvested at this time of year – pecans (a type of nut) with spices and maple syrup. Pecan pie is irresistible. Even if you are too full to eat any more, you’ll still be able to make room for pecan pie!
However, pecan pie is not the only place pecan nuts feature at the dinner table. Pecans are also crushed up and used as part of the stuffing ingredients for the Thanksgiving turkey and are mixed through with roast vegetables.
Thanksgiving also has typical drinks like other major holidays called Thanksgiving cider – a wonderful cocktail that blends apple cider with a vodka flavoured by pumpkin and spice. The sweetness of the drink is cut by the spice and tartness, making it an enjoyable cocktail for relaxing. The flavor is actually complex, but somehow it’s also easygoing.
This drink works very well with Thanksgiving foods like turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, etc. It’s perfect for serving after Thanksgiving dinner. A drink like this is ideal for sipping while you sit around talking. It has a soothing quality that makes good conversation just seem to flow.