Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's just around the corner...

Food traditions are an interesting and highly personal thing; especially at Thanksgiving. Some balk at yams without toasted gooey marshmallows on top, stuffing without oysters, or a feast that lacks that ubiquitous green bean casserole. My sister-in-law absolutely must have "corn and oysters" on her Thanksgiving menu. I have a friend who cannot bear to celebrate this holiday without peas with pearl onions. As for me, no matter how I tweak my turkey, diversify my dressing, convert my cranberries, vary my vegetables, or doctor my desserts, it's just not Thanksgiving unless my Grandmother's butterhorn rolls are on the table. They remain sacrosanct.

So, how did the mainstays of Thanksgiving food tradition come to be? Well, New Englander, Sarah Josepha Hale seems to have been the driving force behind inventing the Thanksgiving myth of turkey and stuffing with all trimmings. She wrote a highly idealized account of just such a fictional Thanksgiving dinner in her novel Northwood (1827), which included roasted turkey, stuffing, preserves, and pumpkin pie. A far cry from what experts speculate to have been the original pilgrim meal of venison, lobster, wild birds, corn puddings and currants.

But the fact is, everyone has had their fingers in the Thanksgiving pie, starting with the pilgrims who adapted newly discovered foods to fit the recipes they brought from England; creating new dishes that were perhaps destined to become tradition in their families (with various tweaks and modifications occurring through the generations). Then there are other immigrants who had not celebrated Thanksgiving in their native lands who readily adopted the holiday and the dinner. In the process, they also added to and modified the "traditional" Thanksgiving menu. And of course, there are my traditions, and yours...

Over the next few days, we'll be posting some of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Some are old, some are new, and some are in between. We hope that you like them, and we also hope that you will take a minute to share some of your Thanksgiving food traditions (and how they became so) in our comments section!

9 comments:

Buzz Kill said...

JJ - Thanks for the timely insight into Thanksgiving. This is the family meal that I host every year. This year it looks like we'll have 32 -34 in attendance. I'm always looking for new recipes because I think too many traditional ones get boring. I'm looking for Turkey, stuffing and gravy recipes. If you have any that aren't too out there (I can't afford to put truffles in anything and no turducken), please post them.

Big Shamu said...

All I know is that if I don't get to partake of some fine mashed potatoes and gravy, there will be some serious pouting.

TROLL said...

It's my favorite holiday. Will there be a contest for best recipe/tradition in the comments section?

Today's troll poll concerns....SHOES!

moi said...

My fave holiday, too. The traditions depend on where we are. When my mother was alive, she and I split the duties but both of us always served green chile chicken enchilada casserole as a side dish – it's a New Mexico thing. When we're at my in-laws in Louisiana, no Thanksgiving is a Thanksgiving without my MIL's gumbo. If home, we go to my best friend's house, where one guest who has been coming for years always insists on bringing green beans with those deep fried onions on top. And no dinner is complete as far as I'm concerned without Ocean Spray gelled cranberry sauce.

TROLL said...

Tradition: My Church delivers Boxed Tradtional Meals to Gas Stations/ConvenienceStores/etc...
to those poor souls who have to work on Thanksgiving. And Christmas. Wasn't my idea but I usually help.

Recipe: One Skillet work-saving techique I developed.
Fry Bacon, Oysters, and (cooked) Corned Beef in giant skillet while boiling sweet potatos about half-way thru.

Add generous dollop of Duke's Mayonaise to skillet drippings and fry the sliced partially cooked sweet potatos in that mixture.

Bacon goes on caserole, oysters go in stuffing, corned beef gets served as salty counter-point to the Turkey. Fried taters get served pretty much as is.

It all tastes good and it saves time and burner space.

The Java Junkie said...

Stay tuned, Buzzkill! I have one for each of those!

frogponder said...

So we have this family tradition.
Aunt Frogponder's mystery pie.
Twenty three years ago.... I was in charge of bringing pies to my sister-in-law's for Thanksgiving. They live on a real family farm in Washington's rolling Palouse hills.
I made pumpkin pie (of course) and apple pie. But I needed another pie. I opened Betty Crocker, looked at what I had left - milk, eggs, sugar and lemons and found Chess Pie. Made it and it was a hit. The girls (I have four nieces) labeled it 'the mystery pie'.
Thus was born the tradition of mystery pie. So every year I find a strange and weird pie recipe and make it. I sometimes have to make some 'pie-ish' recipe as I am running out of ideas. Thank goodness for the internet.
Biggest flop was parsnip pie. Funnest was treacle tart, based on the Harry Potter books. My daughter found one of the ingredients at a German themed tourist town in our state. Strangest was Death by Pumpkin that The Engineer made in his black iron dutch oven on the porch over bbq coals.
This year I found a recipe for Bacon Apple pie....

Big Shamu said...

I'll trade you the bacon apple pie for vinegar pie.

The Java Junkie said...

What a great (and fun!) tradition, Frogponder!