Good Food Blog
Thanksgiving: America's 'favourite' holidayPosted at 12:04PM, 27 November 2008 by Adrian Bridgwater - Journalist
The esteemed writer and anglophile Bill Bryson once said that Thanksgiving was his 'favourite' holiday, surpassing Christmas, Labour Day and even the 4th of July in terms of sheer enjoyment value. His reasoning was that there is no gift giving pressure, no picnic logistics to worry about in the cold weather and no wild expense involved of any particular kind.
Thanksgiving instead represents food, drink, American football specials and Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV and, well, more food. This is rightly so of course, as the day itself commemorates the charity and care shown to early American settlers in Massachusetts by Native Americans during the harsh winter periods of the seventeenth century.
Ever since Abraham Lincoln declared the day an official holiday in 1863, foods from the so-called new world have been served up in celebration of the time when early Americans were taught by the indigenous tribes to fish, hunt and grow staples such as corn and root vegetables.
These days the fourth Thursday in November is less a case of learning to spear hunt for eels and more a case of mixing the cornbread stuffing with celery, carrot and onion. Americans like their gravy a light golden colour so there's no chance for Bisto to make any kind of a show. Although it looks insipid at first compared our rich meaty or onion gravies, it is strangely addictive and after a couple of tries is actually quite delicious.
Right after you've settled down on the sofa to watch the president 'pardon' a turkey and set it free, it's probably about time to start thinking about the roast bird that didn't make presidential parole which you are about to consume. Although the southerners rather worryingly deep-fry the entire turkey in what looks like a chrome bucket, most of America prefers the same kind of roast that we enjoy on Christmas day here in Britain.
Macaroni and cheese is a common Thanksgiving side dish among Italian-Americans and many others who quite simply just like it, despite the universal use of the deeply worrying processed cheese called Velveeta used to make it.
Known affectionately as Turkey Day, meals differ around America depending on the cultural heritage of the 'new' Americans of the region. Macaroni and cheese is a common Thanksgiving side dish among Italian-Americans and many others who quite simply just like it, despite the universal use of the deeply worrying processed cheese called Velveeta used to make it. Germanic connections mean that it's not uncommon to find pork and sauerkraut either. You might get some swede too, but it'll be called rutabaga of course!
Cranberry sauce is seen as an essential accompaniment and failure to serve it would be as wrong as leaving out mint sauce for roast lamb in the UK. Right about the time you're settling into the football on TV, it's generally time for pie. Pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie and, of course, apple pie are served up piping hot with a strong punch of brown sugar and cinnamon. If you thought you were full, it's generally time to think again.
Being married to an American I'm constantly delighted to enjoy the 'holiday I never had as a child' and enjoy this celebration. It might be my favourite American holiday too, but the trouble is that Christmas is pretty good too. It's a lot like an English Christmas, only with the volume and contrast turned up a bit.