A non-American’s Guide to Thanksgiving Food
Today is Thanksgiving in the USA.* This holiday can seem a little mystifying to non-Americans; we’ve gained most of our knowledge about it through American culture and, for the most part, much of the rigmarole around it seems similar to Christmas. People head back home to spend time with their families, there’s a big meal and there’s even a Turkey involved. But actually, that’s where the similarities end, at least food-wise, as there’s a whole host of bizarre dishes and odd culinary customs that can flummox a non-American. So here’s our guide to some of the stranger dishes you can expect on a Thanksgiving dinner table.
Sweet potatoes with marshmallows
This vegetable-confectionary combination can initially prove a difficult concept to get your head around if you’re a Brit but it’s a staple side dish for Thanksgiving across the US. A bed of sweet potatoes are topped with a layer of marshmallows with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg being added before the whole lot is put in the oven. We’re assured by the Americans in our office that the artificial sweetness of the marshmallows perfectly compliments the natural sweetness of the potato, we’ll just have to take their word for it.
A turducken is a chicken stuffed in to a duck which is then stuffed in to a turkey, with various stuffings placed between the layers. Consolidating poultry in this way may seem a little on the extravagant side but the results are apparently so delicious that it’s worth the effort. Southerners have naturally taken this idea one step further inventing the ‘deep-fried turducken’.
Not to be outdone by the mighty turducken idea, vegetarians have their own take on Thanksgiving in the form of ‘tofurkey’ which is essentially tofu posing as turkey.
Green Bean Casserole
This Thanksgiving side dish is a dubious combination of green beans, canned condensed cream of mushroom soup and canned crispy fried onion rings. We’re assured it’s very tasty if somewhat offputting to look at.
Deep Fried Turkey
For those not content with simply oven-cooking a turkey, deep-frying has become a popular method of preparing the Thanksgiving turkey in recent years, particularly in southern states. Unfortunately though, this has led to a sharp increase in the number of domestic fires around Thanksgiving as home-made vatts of hot oil can prove to be a risky cooking technique. Subsequently, fire departments now issue deep-frying warning videos in the run-up to Thanksgiving.
Big Mac Stuffing
There’s a variety of stuffing out there but one maverick food blogger from the food blog The Food in my Beard has brought a new one to the table, in the form of ‘big mac stuffing‘. Made with all of the constituent parts of a Mcdonalds big mac (buns, meat, thousand island dressing, onion, pickle, cheese and topped with lettuce), this stuffing looks to be more of delicious meal in itself rather than a side dish. Nonetheless, we’d be up for trying it alongside some Thanksgiving turkey.
A bacon mat is essentially strips of bacon that are woven together and then placed on the turkey whilst it’s roasting in the oven to prevent it from drying out. A fantastic way to cook and consume massive amounts of bacon at once means we’re totally sold on the idea.
Cranberry Sauce, if made from scratch, has the potential to be a delicious accompaniment to the turkey. Understandably, many people choose to save time amidst the chaos of Thanksgiving cooking and buy canned cranberry sauce instead. It’s probably wise not to read the ingredient list on the can too closely though as this gelatinous goop worryingly maintains its shape once removed from the can.
No part of a Thanksgiving turkey gets wasted which is a good thing, or is it? Giblets, which are the liver, heart and other viscera of the turkey are often the basis for a gravy. Tasty as it might be, it’s probably wise not to think too much about what goes in to the gravy as you’re lashing it over your Thanksgiving dinner.
There’s several variations on Ambrosia salad but suffice to say, it’s a sickly sweet dessert that usually contains canned fruit, coconut, marshmallows, jelly and then sometimes, rather alarmingly, mayonnaise or sour cream. If you’ve got a sweet tooth and can handle large amounts of dairy then you’ll be in heaven, for everyone else it sounds like something of an ordeal rather than a delicious dessert.
Are you an American?! Or a non-American that’s experienced Thanksgiving?! Were there some strange dishes that we’ve missed out? Let us know in the comments below.
*Not to be confused with Thanksgiving in Canada, which is celebrated in October.