Thanksgiving's Culinary Origins
Thanksgiving foods reflect Native American and Pilgrim harvest celebrations. Initially, meals included venison, waterfowl, and seafood. Turkey became iconic much later, symbolizing the New World's bounty and becoming a Thanksgiving staple by the 19th century.
Turkey's Surprising Fact
Though turkey is synonymous with Thanksgiving, it wasn't the centerpiece during the first feast. It gained prominence when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, influenced by editor Sarah Josepha Hale's campaign, which included turkey recipes.
Cranberry Sauce Evolution
Native Americans used cranberries for dye and food. The Pilgrims learned to appreciate them, likely eating them raw. Cranberry sauce, as we know it, became popular in 1912 when commercial canning made it widely accessible, adding a sweet tang to the meal.
Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams
The sweet potatoes often called 'yams' in the United States are not true yams. Real yams are starchy tubers from Africa and Asia. The confusion began in the 1930s when Southern farmers marketed their orange-fleshed sweet potatoes as yams.
Stuffing: A Global Tradition
Stuffing, or dressing, varies by region but is a global concept. Ingredients reflect local tastes and available produce. In the South, cornbread is a staple, while oysters may be added in coastal areas. Each recipe reflects a family's or community's history.
Pumpkin Pie's Pilgrim Absence
Pumpkin pie, a Thanksgiving classic, wasn't present at the Pilgrim's first feast. Early settlers lacked butter and wheat flour for pie crusts. The tradition of pumpkin pie likely started with the Pilgrim's second generation, adapting Native American squash recipes.
Green Bean Casserole Creation
Green bean casserole, a Thanksgiving favorite, was invented in 1955 by the Campbell Soup Company. It was created to combine two things most Americans always had on hand: green beans and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup.