By Kimberly Pelagio-Luis
This Thursday, November 25th, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, a holiday dedicated to doing just that: celebrating and giving thanks for the blessings of our past year. For students and teachers, it could mean up to a week of time off school. For workers and laborers, it’s not only a break but a time to count their blessings and product of their work.
For many people, though, this holiday is most defined not by what it represents historically but rather the traditions of their families and cultures, few of which are as important as the traditional Thanksgiving meal.
While the contemporary American Thanksgiving meal has at its center the big, juicy turkey and the food that accompanies it, the menu looked slightly different during that first feast shared by English colonists of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people in 1621. Instead, that meal consisted of fresh deer along with a variety of wildfowl and plenty of cod and bass. Flint, a native variety of corn, was eaten as cornbread and porridge.
But as cultures vary, so do their foods and their traditions, and the “typical” Thanksgiving meal is not so common as many Americans might think. From Canada, Liberia, Japan, Germany, Grenada, to the Netherlands and Norfolk Island, all these foods give our diverse world more vibrancy.
While Canada may have expressed its gratitude back in October, other aspects of the Canadian Thanksgiving are quite similar to the United States. Turkey is often one of the main dishes, though some choose to eat ham or chicken instead, with the dessert of choice being the pumpkin pie. Although the dishes may sound familiar, the recipes are fairly different. While many Americans are used to sweet pumpkin pie, Canadians are used to a spicier version with a lot of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Liberia also already celebrated their Thanksgiving earlier this month with a similar eye towards the hot and the spicy. Roasted chicken, mashed cavassas, green bean casseroles, and chicken gravy are typical dishes. Liberians are known to like their food spicier, so some add cayenne peppers to their already hot dishes.
Liberian Chicken Gravy
Image by Christopher Testani
Japan’s Kinro Kansha No Hi:
Japan actually celebrates Thanksgiving two days before us. In fact, for many Japanese, the Thanksgiving holiday is just another day off work. But some still feast on traditional Japanese dishes, including meat, fish, rice, and tea. Other common dishes include miso pumpkin soup, broiled eggplant, sushi, ramen, cranberry jelly sashimi, and pumpkin mochi pictured below.
Pumpkin mochi with pumpkin filling
Image by The Works of Life
Germany also celebrated its Thanksgiving back in October on the first Sunday of the month. Typical dishes on their table include baked camembert with red currant sauce, pumpkin crostini, herrings with cream cheese sauce, sweet and sour pickled pumpkin, tipsy plum, and schupfnudeln.
Grenada celebrated their Thanksgiving on October 25th, which in 1983 was the day the U.S. military rescued them from a takeover. Because of that, some aspects of their Thanksgiving food are similar to ours. Many tables include the traditional turkey prepared in different ways, but food traditional to the Grenada island is also served. Dishes such as oildown, saltfish souse, doubles and roti, macaroni pie, coleslaw, Grenadian chicken pelau, and goat dairy artisanal cheese are likely to be eaten on Thanksgiving Day.
The Netherlands celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Wednesday of November. Turkey is a common dish on their Thanksgiving Day, though another common recipe is the Dutch stamppot. Other popular dishes include, poffertjes, pannenkoeken, sate, oliebollen, hollandse nieuwe haring, and bitterballen.
Dutch Mini Pancakes
Image by The Pudge Factor
Norfolk Island’s Taste of Norfolk Festival:
Norfolk Island’s Thanksgiving celebration is part of their Taste of the Norfolk Festival, which runs for three days in November. The whole festival is filled with a variety of food that tastes of Norfolk culture. Some dishes you are likely to find during the festival include brancaster mussels, the Norfolk black turkey, stiffkey cockles, samphire, and cromer crab.
What dishes are on your family table this Thanksgiving? It’s amazing that many countries celebrate Thanksgiving, yet their perspective on this holiday is culturally diverse, including the food on their tables!