Thanksgiving 2021: the story of 7 traditional foods

The Thanksgiving celebration is one of the most anticipated of the year, especially after the aftermath of the pandemic. The truth is that today more than ever is a good time to be grateful for everything we have and to talk about this emotional holiday. Thanksgiving is America’s oldest holiday, which means that it comes with many traditions and customs that have been around for hundreds of years. Today, we may not eat exactly what the settlers and Native Americans ate all those years ago, but many of the classic Thanksgiving Dinner dishes we know and love have a long and interesting history behind them. They capture symbolic stories about the creation of the American nation, and in reality their presence at the table has a reason for being. We invite you to discover the 7 culinary elements of Thanksgiving that fill this emotional date with identity and tradition.

1. Apple cider

Cider was once considered the national drink. Later, unfermented sweet cider became more common on American tables, but before the mid-1800s, hard drinks were the drink of choice for Americans, especially New Englanders. Introduced to North America from Europe, apple trees grew well in the temperate climate, and many New England families began making homemade cider from their own orchards. The production was so successful that in 1767, Massachusetts settlers drank an estimated average of 35 gallons of cider per person. Many believed that it was healthier and safer to drink than water. However, cider was much more than a substitute for clean water. The rest is history since apple cider quickly became an iconic element in the Thanksgiving celebration, not only is it synonymous with celebration, it is an element that invites us to thank the harvests of the year.

Apple cider. / Photo: Reform

2. Turkey

The reality is that the presence of turkey on the Thanksgiving tables of many Americans today, could be the only thing that connects this national holiday with romanticized food in 1621, shared by Pilgrims and Indians and studied by so many generations of American schoolchildren. The first thing we have to say is that turkey didn’t become a celebration staple until the mid-19th century. There is no evidence that the first pilgrims ate turkey on the first Thanksgiving. Although they brought birds, they were most likely ducks or geese. It is believed that it became one of the most popular dishes, due to its large size and ability to feed many people. It is worth mentioning that at that time, turkeys were also an available and affordable food. One of the most relevant references is to Britannica, in which Plymouth settler Edward Winslow wrote about a “Great reserve of wild turkeys” in reference to Thanksgiving, and that may have eventually linked the holiday, the turkeys, and the pilgrims.

turkey christmas
Turkey. / Photo: Shutterstock

3. Cranberry sauce

Is there a Thanksgiving table without the colorful and succulent cranberry sauce? Of course not. The history of this famous garnish begins with the arrival of various varieties of blueberries to the United States. In fact, it is known that The name of the fruit is a legacy of the 17th century German settlers in America. Called in medieval England “Moss-berry”, English speakers borrowed the term “kranberee” from their German neighbors, which refers to the long stamens of the plant. The use of the fruit began with native food traditions, the indigenous peoples had grown and eaten the berries for a long time. In fact, there is an account of the colonies from 1672, in which it was confirmed that “the Indians and the English used this fruit a lot, stuffing them with sugar to create a sauce to eat with the meat.” The truth is Cranberry sauce has been paired with turkey, in particular, since at least the 18th century.

Medicinal benefits of blueberries
Cranberry sauce. / Photo: Unsplash

4. Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie dates back to the 17th century, when European settlers first discovered pumpkins in America and brought them back to England. Back then, there were a number of different ways to make pumpkin pie, such as an early New England recipe that included hollowing out a pumpkin and filling it with sweetened and seasoned milk, ending by cooking it directly on the fire. Pumpkin pie was a Thanksgiving dinner (or dessert) staple in the 18th century, and after the Civil War, it became popular throughout the country.

Pumpink Pie
Pumpking foot. / Photo: Shutterstock

5. Cornbread

Corn was very popular in the early days of the country, and the main reason was how accessible and versatile this cereal was. So that Not surprisingly, cornbread actually originated with Native Americans. Of course it goes without saying that in those days, it didn’t taste as good as it does now. According to Southern Living, the original cornbread was just cornmeal and water mixed together and then baked over an open fire. The reality is that it became the delight it is today, when they added more current ingredients like buttermilk and eggs.

Cornbread. / Photo: Unsplash

6. Mashed potatoes

When it comes to iconic side dishes of the Thanksgiving celebration, it’s hard to imagine a table without mashed potatoes. According to The Federalist, some historians actually trace mashed potatoes back to the Incas in Peru between 5,000 and 8,000 BC. C. Of course, at that time they did not consume the puree as we do today, that the tons of butter, dairy and seasonings make it more substantial and delicious. Some say that this more modern version of mashed potatoes first appeared in Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cooking In the 18th century, it was very popular in Britain and its colonies. Others say the recipe originated with Antoine Parmentier, a Frenchman who made dairy-based mashed potatoes in the late 18th century and won a contest for them.

Mashed potatoes. / Photo: Shutterstock

7. Walnut pie

Without a doubt, another classic Thanksgiving dessert is pecan pie, which according to Eater is an American creation. Walnuts are native to North America and Native Americans began to eat and use them in everything. The truth is that it is not certain when the cake became a popular recipe, but there are references in which it is known that The first recipes began to appear in Texas cookbooks in the 1870s and 1880s. And since the nut harvest begins in September and continues through November, it makes sense that it would become a Thanksgiving-related food.

Walnut pie
Walnut pie. / Photo: Unsplash

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