1. The use of the turkey in the USA for Thanksgiving precedes Lincoln's
nationalization of the holiday in 1863. Alexander Hamilton proclaimed that no
"Citizen of the United States should refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving
Day", but turkey was uncommon as Thanksgiving fare until after 1800. By
1857 turkey had become part of the traditional dinner in New England.
2. A Thanksgiving Day dinner served to the Civilian Conservation Corps in
1935 included: Pickles, green olives, celery, roast turkey, oyster stew,
cranberry sauce, giblet gravy, dressing, creamed asparagus tips, snowflake
potatoes, baked carrots, hot rolls, fruit salad, mince meat pie, fruit cake,
candies, grapes, apples, French drip coffee, cigars and cigarettes.
3. Normally a Thanksgiving dinner in the United States bears a good deal of
resemblance to another feast served at Christmas: the centerpiece at both is
most often a turkey. However, the spirits of these occasions are usually
different: the family and friends present at a Thanksgiving table are not
expected to give gifts to each other, for example, and the point of the meal is
to reflect upon and be thankful for the things that have passed over the last
year. While most hosts will say a short prayer before the start of the meal,
this is not obligatory and there is no overt religious significance to the
4. Because turkey is the most common main dish of a Thanksgiving dinner,
Thanksgiving is sometimes colloquially called Turkey Day or Poultry Day.
The USDA estimated that 269 million turkeys were raised in the country in 2003,
about one-sixth of which were destined for a Thanksgiving dinner plate. The
average cost of an entire Thanksgiving feast was approximately $41 in 2007. It
has been estimated that 16-20 percent of annual turkey consumption in the US is
attributed to Thanksgiving and as much as 30 percent of consumption occurs
during the combined Thanksgiving to New Year holiday season.
5. Most Thanksgiving turkeys are stuffed with a cereal-based stuffing and
roasted. Sage is the traditional herb added to the stuffing (also called
dressing), along with chopped celery, carrots, and onions. Turducken, a turkey
stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken, is becoming more popular, from its
Cajun base in Louisiana. Deep-fried turkey is rising in popularity as well,
requiring special fryers to hold the large bird, and reportedly leading to fires
and bad burns for those who fail to take care when dealing with a large quantity
of very hot oil. In more recent years it is also true that as the wild
population of turkeys has rebounded in most of the US, some will hunt and dress
their turkey in the woods and then freeze it until meal preparation.
6. Nontraditional foods other than turkey are sometimes served as the main
dish for a Thanksgiving dinner. Goose and duck, foods which were traditional
European centerpieces of Christmas dinners before being displaced, are now
sometimes served in place of the Thanksgiving turkey. Sometimes, fowl native to
the region where the meal is taking place is used; for example, an article in Texas
Monthly magazine suggested quail as the main dish for a Texan Thanksgiving
feast. In a few areas of the West Coast of the United States, Dungeness crab is
common as an alternate main dish, as crab season starts in early November.
Sometimes a variant recipe for cooking turkey is used; for example, a Chinese
recipe for goose could be used on the similarly-sized American bird. Vegetarians
or vegans may try tofurkey, a tofu-based dish with imitation turkey flavor. In
Alaskan villages, whale meat is sometimes eaten. Irish immigrants have been
known to have prime rib of beef as their centerpiece as beef was once a rarity
back in Ireland. In the United States, a new globalist approach to Thanksgiving
has become popular due to the impact of immigration on the country. Some take
the basic Thanksgiving ingredients, and reinvent them using flavors, techniques,
and traditions from their own cuisines, while others celebrate the holiday with
a large festive meal with or without turkey.
7. Traditional Thanksgiving foods are sometimes specific to the day, and
although some of the foods might be seen at any semi-formal meal in the United
States, the meal often has something of a ritual or traditional quality. Many
Americans would say it's "incomplete" without cranberry sauce,
stuffing or dressing, and gravy. Other commonly served dishes include sweet
potatoes, mashed potatoes or rice (in the South), dumplings, corn on the cob or
hominy, deviled eggs, green beans or green bean casserole, peas and carrots,
wheat flour bread rolls, cornbread (in the south), or biscuits, rutabagas or
turnips, and a Waldorf salad. For dessert, various pies are often served,
particularly apple pie, mincemeat pie, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate
meringue pie and pecan pie, with the last four being particularly American.
8. There are also nontraditional regional differences as to the stuffing or
dressing traditionally served with the turkey. Southerners generally make their
dressing from cornbread, while those in other parts of the country make stuffing
from white or wheat bread as the base. One or several of the following may be
added to the dressing/stuffing: oysters, apples, chestnuts, raisins, celery
and/or other vegetables, sausages or the turkey's giblets. The traditional
Canadian version has bread cubes, sage, onion and celery. Rice is also sometimes
used instead of bread in Canada.
9. The beverages served at Thanksgiving can vary as much as the side dishes,
often depending on who is present at the table and their tastes. Spirits or
cocktails occasionally may be served before the main meal. On the dinner table,
unfermented Apple cider (still or sparkling) and/or wine are often served.
Beaujolais nouveau is sometimes served, as "Beaujolais day" falls one
week before Thanksgiving. For children non-alcoholic beverages are served at the
table as it is generally frowned upon for those below the age of 21 to consume
alcohol, and in the US it is illegal in many places, though in some states it is
legal for those under 21 to consume alcohol when their parents are present.
Pitchers of sweetened iced tea are common throughout the South.
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