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Thanksgiving Food Traditions Through the Years

National

Thanksgiving Meal | Image by Shutterstock

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Thanksgiving was established as a national holiday in 1863, around 200 years after the landing of the pilgrims.

The idea of turkey being a staple of Thanksgiving meals comes from the wild turkey that would have been prominent in the Plymouth Colony at the time.

However, Turkey would not have been the main dish; it would have been coupled with other meats and seafood such as venison, duck, eel, and oysters.

The pilgrims likely would not have used the bread-based dish we know as stuffing to dress their turkey. Stuffing as we know it did not appear at the dinner table until the late 1700s.

In the 1800s, pumpkin pie became popular. It was popular in the British upper class earlier than that, but the pumpkin pie of that time did not truly resemble what we know as pumpkin pie.

In the 1900s, marshmallows started to gain popularity, and so the marriage of sweet potatoes and marshmallows at holiday gatherings was born.

In 1941, Ocean Spray introduced its canned cranberry sauce to the market. Now around 5 million gallons of it are consumed each Thanksgiving.

The hot dish craze hit America in the 1950s, introducing green bean and potato casserole into holiday festivities.

Different regions of the U.S. partake in different Thanksgiving food traditions based on the culture and food access in the region.

In Maryland, you may see crabcakes on the dining room table. In New England, you may see stuffing with clams and oysters.

In Texas, celebrators may opt to fry their turkey rather than roast it.

In New Mexico and Arizona, Latin cultures have influenced Thanksgiving traditions. They may serve pumpkin empanadas as a side.

Midwestern states are likelier to opt for hot dishes, such as the famed green bean casserole or wild rice casserole.

In the South, though also orange and sweet, you may not get a pumpkin pie but a sweet potato one instead. Macaroni & Cheese is also a southern side dish staple.

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