It’s one of the biggest celebrations in the American calendar – and food plays a major role. So what is Thanksgiving all about? It’s a US holiday that takes place on the fourth Thursday in November. Back in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a national day of thanksgiving, celebrating the first harvest of the first Pilgrims and Puritans to lands in America in 1621 – and it’s been a holiday ever since.
Thanksgiving dinner is really the centrepiece of this annual festival – a large meal, with family and friends gathered round the table to celebrate together. If you’re a fan of American TV shows like The Simpsons, you’ll undoubtedly have seen what Thanksgiving dinner looks like – and there are usually just as many family arguments as there are smiles around the table and plenty of American football on TV too!
Want to host your own Thanksgiving dinner this year? Then come November these are the essential, and delicious, ingredients you’ll need.
Just as it’s a traditional meat used for Christmas dinner, turkey is favoured because it’s big – and that means it can feed a whole family. Turkeys are usually stuffed with chestnuts and/or sausage meat and grains and baked in the oven before being carved at the table for everyone to enjoy.
You can’t serve up your Thanksgiving turkey without this sauce of the season. The first pilgrims learnt all about cranberries from the Native American Indians, who picked these berries at this time of year. Today, some people serve their cranberry sauce straight out of the can or jar, but if you have the time you might want to try and make your own. All you need to do is boil some sugar and water, add some cranberries, cook until they pop, mash them and then let the sauce cool in the fridge.
Closely tied to harvest festivals that date back centuries, Thanksgiving makes use of all the vegetables that are traditionally harvested at this time of year. That means lots of root vegetables. These are vegetables that grow in the ground, under soil, rather than above ground or on trees or plants. So that means potatoes of all kinds, parsnips, carrots, squash, yams, and the most popular Thanksgiving veg of all – pumpkins.
Marshmallow sweet potatoes
Think sweet potatoes aren’t sweet enough? Neither does America. Believe it or not, this is a favourite Thanksgiving dish that’s baked all across the country for this feast. While fluffy white marshmallows definitely weren’t served up at the first thanksgiving dinner back in 1621, they’re often included today. All you need to do is roast some sweet potatoes, then mash them, add some butter and cinnamon, top with marshmallows, then stick them back in the oven until the marshmallows are browned on top.
Looking for more sweet treats? As well as serving up pumpkin as a vegetable, Americans like to sweeten their mashed pumpkin to use as a delicious filling for this traditional Thanksgiving pie.
Another popular kind of pie baked for Thanksgiving uses another ingredient that’s harvested at this time of year. Pecan nuts are used in this pie that is sweetened with maple syrup, but that’s not the only place pecan nuts feature at the dinner table. Pecans are also crushed up and used as part of the stuffing ingredients for the Thanksgiving turkey and are mixed through with roast vegetables.