THANKSGIVING – IT’S THE TRIMMINGS WHICH TELL THE STORY
Marty Martindale

Very few have tampered with the concept of Thanksgiving over the years. Bouquets

are seldom sent, greeting  cards relatively rare. However, if you really do care   to send the very best, Walter Shapiro, in Time Magazine, once suggested, “Buy an airplane ticket and fly yourself to your loved ones.”

As if it is expected, Thanksgiving seems a day when most people eat too much.  “It is a time when stuffed people eat stuffed turkeys along with countless side dishes,” notes Marvin Harris, Ph.D., Anthropologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.  “Industrial-age celebrants have lost touch with the earliest  significance of overeating.  At Thanksgiving time, for example, Americans do not emerge from months of semi-starvation to urgently replenish food reserves. Calorically speaking, modern holidays are merely occasions for raising prior consumption levels from more than enough to far more than enough.” Holiday feasting compensates for nothing, he points out, and prepares the eater for no upcoming need to store food against a shortage.

Typically,  the Thanksgiving turkey meal is eaten anywhere from noon to midnight, and  fast food folks don’t even open, for the most part.  People tend to be thoughtful toward one another, sometimes inviting almost strangers to share their over-flowing table.  It is also a time to re-establish emotional bonding and strengthen family harmony.

Countries, other than the U.S., celebrate this day.  It happens in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Laos, Liberia, Guam, Grenada and the Virgin Islands.  In the United States, history shows the meal of thankfulness varied where it took place starting back in 1598 when early settlers celebrated with local Native Americans. In the Northwest, the Russians shared gastronomic pleasures with primitives there.   Differences were also experienced with the French in the Mississippi Valley, the Spaniards in the Southwest, and the English in the Jamestown, Virginia. The most widely known is the sharing of a feast by New England’s Pilgrims with tribes they encountered in 1621.

Today, most everyone serves turkey on Thanksgiving and desserts tend to be basic pies.  However, it is the side dishes during the meal, the trimmings, which make the meal ethnic and regional. Below, the Ocean Spray Thanksgiving Almanac lines out favorite vegetables and dressing types influenced by local harvests: **

Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Cranberry spritizers, Boston brown bread and white bread dressing made with Bell’s Seasoning
Newark, New Jersey: buttered Brussels sprouts, sage stuffing and cranberry-corn muffins
Charleston, South Carolina: Buttermilk biscuits, cornbread stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes
Miami, Florida: Black bean and rice stuffing, mashed yams, baked plantains and  tomato-orange-cranberry salsa
Minneapolis, Minnesota: Wild rice stuffing, corn pudding, corn sticks and  homemade cranberry conserve
Chicago, Illinois: Sausage stuffing, succotash, creamed corn and  persimmon pudding
St. Louis, Missouri: Beer bread, creamed spinach, Brussels sprouts
New Orleans, Louisiana: Oyster/Cajun-seasoned sausage cornbread stuffing, creamed peas and onions, buttermilk biscuits
Seattle, Washington: Cranberry-apple relish, wild mushroom stuffing, Brussels sprouts and  apple cobbler
San Francisco, California: Water chestnut or rice stuffing, sourdough rolls, Zinfandel wine and cranberry-orange marmalade
Los Angeles, California: glazed onions, pumpkin bread, carrot salad and baked acorn squash with brown sugar
Santa Fe, New Mexico: Blue cornbread stuffing with pine nuts, blue cornbread and baked squash
Houston, Texas: Spicy cranberry-chili salsa, corn pudding, green beans with -fried onions, candied yams, cornbread and  glazed onions

In 1959, cranberries were absent at most feasts.  That year researchers  announced the vitamin-C-rich berries were coated with a cancer-causing substance. Even the residents of Sing Sing prison received a substitute of grape jelly. Cleared of all charges in 1960, cranberries became available everywhere once again, and they grew in popularity.  Dried cranberries soon hit the market making them available year ’round in juice combinations, breads and pastries.

For latecomers to this country, Thanksgiving’s distinctive trimmings may be ravioli, antipasto or lasagna for Italians or tamales for Mexicans who might also stuff their bird with a mixture of ground beef, raisins and olives.  Some will marinate their turkey in lime juice seasoned with cumin. Rice, beans, plantains, cassava mash,  ginger beer and sorrel bring a Caribbean\Central American feast together. Russian Gypsies tend to serve stuffed cabbage, while many Jewish families eat chopped liver with their turkey.  Germans frequently want their applesauce at the meal, while sometimes Asian families substitute a duck for turkey.

Then, in most  areas, the day right after Thanksgiving becomes the busiest  U.S. shopping day of the year.

**Subsequent information from Gina Jenkins,Culinary Historians of D.C.,
states, “In Baltimore, sauerkraut is a necessary complement to Thanksgiving turkey (with oyster stuffing) and sauerkraut salad and coleslaw are popular side dishes. Sauerbraten, or sour beef, is another regional favorite.”

Marty Martindale

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.

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