Also known as ‘Turkey Day’, Thanksgiving is unofficially measured by the sheer number of turkeys sold in the lead up to one of the USA’s biggest celebrations. However, there’s more to this holiday than just turkey. Read on to find out how Thanksgiving dishes can differ across the USA, depending on the culture that is interwoven into the area.
Puerto Rico is well-regarded for the Creole cooking that is woven into family traditions. Certain foods are made at special times of the year, with everyone gathering to lend a hand. Pasteles are one such food – seasoned taro root that is wrapped in banana leaves to be boiled. Puerto Ricans often add turkey to the pasteles to create a unique Thanksgiving dish.
Kālua pork is a beloved food in tropical Hawaii. Seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt, the pork is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground in an umu. The end result is a wonderfully smoky, earthy flavour. Kālua pork is usually a substitute, or cooked alongside a turkey, for Thanksgiving in Hawaii.
The mid-Atlantic states of the USA (think Pennsylvania and New Jersey) have deep-seated German and/or Eastern European roots. So, it only makes sense that many families here will include sauerkraut as a side to their Thanksgiving meal.
Wild rice casserole
For many years, Minnesota produced almost all of the world’s wild rice so it’s apt that it is known as the Official State Grain. A Minnesotan Thanksgiving will highly likely include a wild rice casserole, cooked as stuffing inside a turkey and served as a side dish.
The East Coast – predominantly New York and New Jersey – is well-known for its vibrant Italian American community. Weaving Italian food into Thanksgiving is a delicious affair, with manicotti a popular dish. Manicotti is a tube-like pasta filled with a cheesy filling, drowned in a rich, tomato sauce and baked until the cheese is golden and bubbling away. Buon appetito!
Those who are Mexican Americans love to eat their turkey with a side of mole. This dark sauce has a complex flavour profile, made from dried chillies, seeds, nuts and chocolate.
Given New England is one of the USA’s strongest seafood areas, it wouldn’t be a New England Thanksgiving without a dash of the ocean. It sounds odd but oyster cornbread makes an appearance at this annual celebration. Oysters are baked into the traditional Thanksgiving cornbread casserole and served with creamed onion for a unique twist.