November 1621, the year the recently arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered at Plymouth to celebrate friendship, freedom, new beginnings, and the blessing of a bountiful autumn harvest. This even would be America’s “First Thanksgiving.”
Since then, millions of Americans gather every year to celebrate the same things, and more. Even for those who don’t have the means to feast, nor the friends or family, thousands of shelters and churches nationwide offer a free meal and fellowship to those in need.
I for one look forward to warm family gatherings, hot spiced apple cider, and yes, though I know it isn’t healthy, stuffing myself so full I need a nap. It’s certainly always a refreshing reminder to stop and be thankful for the many, many, many blessings I as an American am the recipient of. Though there have been incidents of family drama and financial hard times, every year I am reminded of the many blessings I still have.
Now I’ll give you the list of the top 10 dishes Americans look forward to come November:
Corn pudding, corn on the cob, creamed corn, ornamental corncobs, Indian corn, popcorn. Corn was a staple for the pilgrims. Historians believe corn was definitely a part of the first Thanksgiving sine the Native Americans had been growing it for a long time before the arrival of the Mayflower. These days, corn is not only a certain dish at Thanksgiving feasts, it is also used in Thanksgiving/fall decor.
9. Dinner Rolls
Ah, yes. Warm, yeasty, buttery rolls…I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Word of mouth says Food Network has the best dinner roll recipe around so if you want to check it out, here it is: Food Network Thanksgiving Dinner Rolls Recipe
In the early days of America, people usually mixed eggnog with rum. Some sources say Colonials called rum “grog” so they believe the name “eggnog” came about from egg-and-grog. Other sources say the word comes from noggin, a small, carved wooden mug used back in Colonial times. Here’s a fun fact: George Washington, the first president, was reportedly a huge fan of eggnog and had created his own recipe using rye whiskey, rum, and sherry. Reports say the drink was so stiff that only the most courageous were willing to try it.
7. Mashed Potatoes
Creamy, lumpy, instant, or authentic. I don’t personally know anyone who doesn’t love this favorite at Thanksgiving meal time. A recipe from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by Hannah Glasse, 1747 edition gives a recipe that is still used today.
“Boil your Potatoes, peel them, and put them into a Sauce-pan, mash them well; To two pounds of Potatoes put a Pint of Milk, a little Salt, stir them well together, take care they don’t stick to the Bottom, then take a quarter of a Pound of Butter, stir in and serve it up.”
6. Green Bean Casserole
Even as a kid when I HATED vegetables, I always asked my parents to put a heaping pile of green bean casserole on my plat.! This dish, however, only become a traditional favorite pretty recently. It was invented in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, an employee of the Campbell Soup Company. Reilly had studied home economics at Drexel University and began working at Campbell in 1949. In the mid-50s, she decided she wanted to come up with a quick and easy dish that could be made from ingredients that most Americans had in their pantry and voila! The green bean casserole was born. Reilly donated the original copy of her recipe to the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2002. Click here to view the original recipe.
5. Sweet Potatoes
The sweet potato has been around far longer than Thanksgiving. Archeological evidence shows that cultivation of the orange favorite began around 2500-1850 BC in the South and Central Americas. Columbus loved it so much when he explored those regions that he took it back to Spain. In 1597, Englander John Gerard wrote about it in his book Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, saying it was best served roasted and infused with wine, boiled with prunes, or roasted with oil, vinegar, and salt. He also wrote that it “comforts, strengthens, and nourishes the body.” It only became known as the “sweet potato” in the 1740s in order to set it apart from the white Irish potato. George Washington Carver, one of my personal heroes, assembled over 100 recipes for it.
The common belief that the first Thanksgiving featured a main dish of turkey isn’t quite accurate. Back in those days, settlers called all wild fowl “turkey,” so it’s hard to know for sure exactly what bird was served. It’s interesting to note that the pilgrims also thought potatoes were poisonous at first. Also, for all of you kids out there, tradition back then was that all the adults sat down to eat first, while the kids served the adults. That’s one thing you can be thankful for now: Your elders serving you!
2. Pumpkin Pie
Though it’s the #2 favorite, pumpkin pie was not served at the first Thanksgiving. Native Americans consumed a lot of squash and pumpkins, but the early settlers didn’t care much for it. They didn’t start eating it until almost half of the pilgrims died of scurvy and exposure during their first harsh winter. The Native Americans brought squash and pumpkins as gifts and showed the pilgrims how to use them. Pumpkin pie was created about 50 years later.
The #1 favorite is also the most varied dish. No recipe is ever the same, even between families. In fact, it isn’t even called the same thing between families. Some call it stuffing, some call it dressing, and still others call it filling. Whatever you call it, “stuff” yourself, “fill” your belly, and enjoy your Thanksgiving!
For more interesting Thanksgiving history, stories and facts, I found these sites to be chockfull of interesting tidbits: