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A brief history of Thanksgiving foods

    Grace+demonstrates+an+infographic+regarding+side+dishes+for+Thanksgiving.
    Grace Haglund
    Grace demonstrates an infographic regarding side dishes for Thanksgiving.

    This Thursday, many Americans will come together to celebrate over a traditional Thanksgiving meal. From turkey to cranberries to pumpkin pie, there are certain food staples that seem synonymous with the holiday. However, this was not always the case.

    Here is a history of all the most beloved Thanksgiving foods.

    The first Thanksgiving celebration between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Tribe dates back to November 1621. This celebration was not quite what it is today. In 1621, the Pilgrims ate a variety of meats, including geese, ducks, deer and a variety of different seafood. There is speculation as to whether or not turkey was in fact consumed at the first Thanksgiving so long ago. With 400 or so years of history, the courses served on the fourth Thursday of November have changed and evolved.

    In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared that Thanksgiving would be a national holiday. Lincoln did this as a way of showing his appreciation that the Union Army won the battle of Gettysburg.

    The beloved sweet potato marshmallow combo that comes in many forms was not a staple of the holiday until 1917. The sweet potato had been a part of the Thanksgiving tradition since the 1800s, but not quite to this capacity. In 1917, the company Angelus Marshmallows was responsible for this creation. The company hired Janet Mckenzie Hill, who had founded the Boston Cooking School Magazine, to create new recipes that featured marshmallows. This sweet potato casserole adorned with warm sticky marshmallows was one of those recipes.

    Some other popular side dishes are the green bean casserole and cranberry sauce in varying textures. The green bean casserole was introduced to the world in 1955, by Campbell Soup Co. This side dish consisted of green beans, mushroom soup, and fried onions, and has hardly changed since it was brought to the dinner table. Cranberries have likely been a part of the tradition since the start, as the fruit is identified with Native American traditions. The first record of cranberries being used in sauce form comes in the year 1796 in the book, “American Cookery” by Amelia Simmons, according to The Washington Post. Cranberry Sauce became a canned good in the year 1912 thanks to Ocean Spray.

    Pumpkin pie did not become a staple of Thanksgiving food until the 1800s. Despite this, pumpkin was a part of the produce that the Pilgrims ate in 1621. By 1869 the pumpkin pie was labeled as one of the “inevitable” Thanksgiving foods. Similar to the cranberry sauce, one of the first recorded recipes for pumpkin pie was in “American Cookery”.

    Corn is another dish that made an appearance at the first Thanksgiving but has since evolved. The History Channel claims that corn was not eaten off of the cob like it might be today, but instead was ground up and turned into cornmeal and then was turned into porridge.

    Historians debate whether or not turkey was at the first Thanksgiving, if it was, it was not the main course of the feast. Having turkey as the main part of the meal became common sometime in the 19th century, claims Time Magazine. Today, more than 46 million turkeys are consumed for the Thanksgiving celebration. Alexander Hamilton once said, “No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day.”

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    About the Contributors
    Cooper Hatsis, Culture reporter
    Grace Haglund, Graphic artist

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