At some point in our lives, we find ourselves celebrating Thanksgiving in a new region, or with a new friend or relative. Maybe we got married, maybe we’re far from home and have a “Friendsgiving” in which everyone brings a dish. Whatever the case, when we enjoy Thanksgiving outside of our hometowns, the dishes we encounter may surprise us. If you spend the holiday in the south, you may be served frog eye salad, and New England, you could enjoy some oyster pie.
Many of the dishes we eat differ because of the settler’s traditions, as well as the food available to the region – Thanksgiving goes back further than processed food after all, in those days you had to eat what was readily available. Still, turkey and pumpkin pie do grace almost every Thanksgiving table in the United States. The rest of the meal varies, though. These are some popular regional dishes you may enjoy while in a new region.
Traditions in the Northeast often bloomed from more coastal New England, where the original feast took place. Oysters were once a readily available and affordable food, so often, they would make their way into turkey, or into the stuffing, in addition to a pie. The other more popular stuffing in the Northeast is sausage, which is a favorite that sprinkles outside the region, too. Indian pudding is for dessert, similar to hasty pudding but it uses cornmeal instead of wheat flour, which was not available in the 1600’s (take note for your gluten free friends!), or traditional apple pie. Relished cranberries with orange zest is turkey’s dressing, and the gravy is mushroom and thin. Prepare for squash, this is the northeast’s main preference for side item. Top it off with a side of creamed onions and your meal is complete!
Thanksgiving extends beyond Plymouth Rock, and the western part of the nation didn’t have the same kind of bounty as their eastern originators. Which is to say, our western friends have probably the healthiest Thanksgiving dishes as they choose to incorporate native fruits and vegetables. Salad, for example, is the most popular dish on the western table. These celebrants like their cranberry sauce gelatinous, rather than canned or pureed, making for something a little milder than its eastern neighbors. Sourdough is the bread of choice for westerners. Persimmons abound, and after pumpkin pie and cherry pie, persimmon pudding is the choice dessert of the west coast population.
The Mid-West clings to its old school traditions with green bean casserole, Jell-O salad (most popular in western neighbor Utah, though), and corn pudding, all complemented with a wild rice stuffing. Biscuits and rolls are the most popular accent on the table, along side the turkey which is either smoked or grilled. With the turkey, you probably find another protein, like ham or brisket. Cranberry sauce is kept quick and easy in the canned variety. These folks take a hint from their western neighbors and enjoy cherry pie with pumpkin.
The South West
The South West puts a spicy, regional twist to its Thanksgiving spread. This region has a great Mexican influence in all its food, and it continues with Thanksgiving. Pumpkin empanadas grace the table, as do various tamales. Cranberry sauce has a spicy kick with chipotle peppers, which creates an interesting variation from pepper jam, so popular in the region. Texans enjoy a little hard boiled egg crumbled in their gravy, and desert is a delicious pumpkin flan or coconut cream pie.
The South has some of the most inventive food options. Aside from the aforementioned frog eye salad, which is similar to ambrosia salad, but has egg and orzo in it – rest assured, no actual frogs or eyes, southerners like sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, collard greens, and the most popular side is macaroni and cheese. Southern gravy is similar to what you’d find with fried chicken – a creamy, rich concoction, and cranberry sauce is often simply of the canned variety. The turkey is frequently fried, or sometimes grilled with a can of beer placed in its cavity, which is later replaced with cornbread stuffing. Southerners love key lime pie with their pumpkin pie.
Have you ever had Thanksgiving in a new region? What was for dinner?