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Thanksgiving was my dad’s favorite holiday and although Christmas edges it out in my book, I love it to distraction too. Anything that involves three of my favorite things in the world – my family, cooking, and (of course!) eating – gets my seal of approval.
I’ve had a few Thanksgiving-related ideas for posts and articles bouncing around in my head, but didn’t think any of the bunch was “heavy” enough to warrant its own post. So I decided to make a “Vegetable Soup” type post – throwing everything into one place and hoping it all turns out!
20 Fast Thanksgiving Facts
- The first Thanksgiving was observed in Plymouth in the fall of 1621. The idea for the event came from Massachusetts Governor William Bradford. He was so thankful for a great harvest hat he decided to plan a festival to give thanks. 90 Native Americans (Wampanoag Indians) joined 50 English Colonists for the celebration.
- The Wampanoag Indians were the ones who taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land.
- The first Thanksgiving (which actually lasted 3 days!) is said to have been observed in October rather than November. Personally, I wish the holiday were observed today in October – far enough removed from Christmas to get the attention it deserves.
- In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming November 26 as a day of national thanksgiving. I’d love to know why November was chosen over October, but all the research in the world hasn’t uncovered this “tidbit.”
- On October 3, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving.
- In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day one week earlier to boost the Christmas shopping season. In 1941 Congress ruled that the fourth Thursday in November will be observed as Thanksgiving Day and a federal legal holiday.
- Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. See???? They have the right idea!
- While we credit the Pilgrims (or English Colonists) with “inventing” or “creating” Thanksgiving, historians tell us that Native Americans traditionally threw a shindig as they gathered to enjoy and celebrate their harvest each autumn.
- Lobster, rabbit, chicken, fish, squashes, beans, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, maple syrup and honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, and goat cheese are thought to have made up the first Thanksgiving feast.
- Over the years (thank goodness!) we moved to the more traditional foods such as mashed potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato pies, corn, dressing (or stuffing), green bean (and later green bean casserole) and cranberries.
- Green Bean Casserole was inspired by the Depression Era. It was a way to take things that were already on hand and make a dish without spending a great deal of money.
- The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade tradition began in the 1920’s.
- Campbell’s Kitchen “invented” the Green Bean Casserole in 1955.
- Turkey has more protein than chicken or beef.
- Like me, turkeys have poor night vision. I’m guessing they shouldn’t drive at night either.
- Cranberries are native to America. Our biggest producers are Massachusetts and Wisconsin. Cranberries are actually only one of a handful of fruits that are native to America. The blueberry and Concord grape are a few others.
- Thanksgiving Day football is a treasured tradition in the homes of most of us. The first football game played on Thanksgiving Day was in 1934, when the Detroit Lions played the Chicago Bears.
- The Guinness World Record for a Pumpkin pie goes to a whopping 3,699 pounds (after it was baked) pie in 2010. Credit for this beast goes to the New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers in New Bremen, Ohio.
- Not only was pumpkin pie not served at the First Thanksgiving, ironically, back then cooks put pumpkin into pie crusts rather than into the filling!
- From OceanSpray.com – In the 1880s, a New Jersey grower named John “Peg Leg” Webb discovered that cranberries bounce. Instead of carrying his crop down from the storage loft of his barn, Webb poured them down the steps. He noticed that only the freshest, firmest fruit reached the bottom; rotten or bruised berries didn’t bounce and remained on the steps. This discovery led to the invention of “bounceboards”, tools used to separate rotten berries from fresh ones.
A Few Personal Thanksgiving Tidbits:
- For years, I prepared my Cornbread Dressing the same way: I made my buttermilk biscuits and buttermilk cornbread the night before, then crumbled them the next day when assembling the dressing. Earlier this month, I toyed around with a new process to see what the results would be. I stayed true to my choices of celery, sage, onion, and chicken broth but this time I used the Pepperidge Farms “Packaged” Dressing mix – you know, the bags you see everywhere this time of year that most of us traditional cooks snub and pretend not to even see. They’re basically dried bread crumbs and seasoning. Another change I made was instead of making my traditional buttermilk cornbread, this time I made the cornbread with bacon drippings instead of shortening. Best. Dressing. Ever. The bacon drippings (notice how I just refuse to call it “grease,” as though not saying it makes it healthier) in the pan gave the cornbread extra flavor and a crispiness that makes it IDEAL for dressing. The combo of using the packaged bread crumbs and the crispier cornbread made a dressing that was even more delicious than my traditional one but, more importantly, it made a dressing that wasn’t smooshy and soft. Making it this way allows it to be warmed up later in the day (and even the next day) by simply drizzling a little more broth on top.
- If you don’t have a somewhat unique Family Thanksgiving Day tradition, come up with one this year. We actually have several in our family: (1). Since 2001, I’ve made uncommonly delicious filled pastries (pictured above) for breakfast. I call them our “Thanksgiving Parade Pastries” because I always make them with one eye on the televised parades. They’re divine and not nearly as difficult to make as you’d think. (2). I’m something of a punch freak. I just can’t seem to have holidays without punch. I have a special New Year’s Day Punch, Christmas Day Punch, Thanksgiving Punch, Easter Punch, and even a Halloween Punch. When two of my three daughters were married, I came up with a Wedding Punch for each. Well, of course I did. Family traditions are fun, familiar, and oh so comforting.
- Never try anything radical for the first time on a holiday. I don’t care if it’s a hairstyle or main dish, holidays simply aren’t the time to wander out into virgin territory. While adding a new side dish or casserole to familiar, tried-and-true side dishes may not spell disaster (after all, even if it flops, you have others), doing something completely different with your ham, turkey, or bread could potentially spell disaster. Been there, done that, still have the emotional scars.
- Don’t just have what you think you’ll need on hand, have more than you foresee needing. While shopping with my youngest daughter, Stephany, last night, I kept putting cream of mushroom soup into our cart. She asked, “How many of those are you going to need?!” I told her I “needed” 6, so I was getting at least 8. After all, it’s not something that couldn’t be used if I didn’t need them on Thanksgiving Day. The words BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY apply to holiday meals as much as they do to anything in life. I like covering my behind so much that I even make sure I have favorite “Green Giant” vegetables in the freezer just in case. If the oven goes out, I drop a casserole, or something unforeseen and hideous happens, I have a back up. I’ve never had to use these backups on holidays before, but knowing they’re there keeps anxiety from making a holiday appearance in my kitchen.
- Buy cute, seasonal napkins!
- Repeat after me, “No one cares if you buy/use disposable cups, bowls, and even plates.” They really don’t care! Why make even more work for yourself when you could simply toss all the dishes into the trash. You’re going to have plenty of pans, bowls, and silverware to wash, why add to it? Again… no one cares and no one will think less of you. If they’re like my crew, they probably won’t even notice.
- While I do use a few of my favorite Rachael Ray casserole dishes, I make quite a few casseroles (including dressing) in disposable foil pans. They’re ideal for reheating meals and, when they’ve served their purpose, you can sit leftovers out for dogs, cats, birds, possums, skunks, Bigfoot…
- If you’re lucky enough to have someone new at your table this Thanksgiving, be sure to ask them (well ahead of time) what their favorite Thanksgiving side dish and/or dessert is. It’ll mean the world to them when you set it in front of them. Needless to say, be sure you do the same for the ones you’ve been blessed with for years!
- Most importantly – treasure each and every moment with those you love. Not only are you making memories you’ll have for a lifetime, you’re playing a role in memories they’ll have for a lifetime. When you think of it that way, you’ll realize that any time spent NOT laughing, NOT smiling, and NOT enjoying yourself is time wasted.
- Don’t forget your Crock Pot! If you can use this kitchen staple for one of your vegetables or side dishes, you’ll free up precious stove top space and non-existent free oven space.
- I make something called “Relish Tray Salad” (pictured below) for most holidays. I got the idea from an old episode of “Emeril Live” (how I miss that show!!!). I simply toss together varying combinations of: Gherkins, blanched baby carrots, cauliflower, cocktail onions, olives, sweet midget pickles, and assorted jarred peppers. Throw it all together – including the juices. No matter what combination you go with, the flavors are amazing and the colors add a lot of pop and personality to the holiday table. What’s more, everyone has fun picking out their favorites (without fail, I’m left with quite a few cocktail onions).