News Editor & Writer
Florida native Rachel Stamford shares her family’s favourite foodstuffs for Thanksgiving.
I’ve lived in both England and Scotland over the past two years and one thing no one I’ve come across has been able to grasp is just how serious Americans take Thanksgiving. We actually take all of our holidays to an over-the-top commercialized extravaganza (go ahead and Google “Spirit Store Halloween” if you don’t believe me), but this November tradition is special for many reasons. It’s the one day a year we take to consider how grateful we are for the friends and family in our lives, and it’s celebrated completely different depending on how you’re brought up.
For those of you who don’t know why we celebrate Thanksgiving or what it is, it follows the legend of the Pilgrims breaking bread with the Native Americans. In 1620 a group of separatists travelled on The Mayflower from Plymouth, England, to North America and founded Plymouth Colony. The next year they celebrated a successful harvest with a three-day feast which was attended by members of the Wampanoag tribe.
There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the original Thanksgiving. Historians aren’t sure if the Wampanoags were even invited to the feast or if they just happened upon it, but the legend was declared an official holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. However, Americans don’t celebrate the original Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day, or usually even talk about it for that matter. The holiday has become an event to gather with your family over dinner, watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade or football, and partake in juicy drunk gossip.
(If you’re an American and deny that last part you’re kidding yourself.)
What also makes Thanksgiving special is the food. Each family has their own recipes passed down, or dishes influenced by the state you live in. Southern states might cook up mac and cheese or cornbread while northern states make heartier Buffalo chicken dip or pecan pie. Growing up in Florida most of my friends had lighter sides, but my parents are from Pennsylvania, so we often cooked heavier meals despite the heatwaves.
Here are some of my family’s most famous Thanksgiving dishes just in case you decide to throw your own Thanksgiving with loved ones or flatmates this year, written by an authentic American mother who has never eaten a ready meal in her life (so you know she can cook).
Sweet Potato Casserole
8 sweet potatoes
Bake the sweet potatoes until tender. Let cool, then peel.
Mash the sweet potatoes with butter and milk until smooth. Add brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon. Mix well – make sure it is smooth. Add crushed salted pretzels to the mix.
Put in casserole dish and put mini marshmallows on top. Bake for 15 minutes at 190C or until marshmallows are browned.
1/2 cup cranberries frozen, thawed
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup celery, finely diced
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
1 medium apple, peeled cored and diced
2 tbsp raisins
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add all above ingredients except apples and raisins. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add apples and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until apples are soft.
Remove from heat and stir in raisins while sauce is still hot. Cool thoroughly.
Serve as a side to Thanksgiving dinner, or as a spread on leftover turkey sandwiches.
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 x 15 ounce can Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin (or equivalent if you can’t find this one)
1 x 12 ounce can Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk
1 x 9 inch unbaked deep dish pie crust
Preheat oven to 220C.
Combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl. Beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and the sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into the pie crust.
Bake for 15 minutes. Then reduce temperature to 175C and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for two hours. Keep refrigerated – don’t freeze or it will separate.