On Thanksgiving Day, none of the Americans is left without a turkey. There are even the donation funds for those, who are not able to buy this bird. Many Americans are cooking turkey to carry it to the church and to the homeless placement centers. Some employers are giving a turkey to their co-workers.
The turkey is the main, but not the only dish of the festive table. Potatoes, pumpkin pie and cranberry jelly are served together with it. The vegetarian feasts are organized on the Thanksgiving Day as well. In such cases, the turkey is often replaced by cheese tofu and bread from wheat protein – seitan. Gathering in the bosom of the family and friends, Americans are forgetting about time: this dinner is a pleasant time over a glass of red wine. If you are visiting a state of Florida, rent a car in Orlando Airport and enjoy the beauty and the spirit of this traditional American family holiday.
The turkey saved the first settlers from starvation and became the main dish of the festive dinner on Thanksgiving Day, which is celebrated in the USA today. Benjamin Franklin regretted that the national symbol of the United States is not turkey, but the bald eagle. In a letter to his daughter, he compared the moral qualities of the eagle and turkey, reproaching the first in laziness and praising the second for bravery in defending the breed.
In November 1620, the Europeans landed in the area of today’s Plymouth, Massachusetts, and founded a settlement. There were hundreds of pilgrims and only the half survived. The Wampanoag Indians helped the Europeans to stay alive at their first winter and showed which birds and animals they needed to hunt for. In the next autumn, the settlers gathered the first harvest, in honor of which they arranged a holiday, known today as the Thanksgiving Day.
According to tradition, one of the main treats was a roast turkey. In fact, historians say, hunters were sent not for the turkey, but for wild geese and ducks. However, since the colonists were calling all the unknown feathered game “Indian”, it is possible that they caught precisely the turkey. Whatever it was, but the holiday was decided to be celebrated annually, giving “thanksgiving” to the hospitable North American land for the warm welcome of the colonists. The dishes from turkey have become a decoration of the festive table not only on Thanksgiving Day, but also on Christmas and Easter. The tradition was also explained by economic considerations: the chickens were protected as they were laying eggs, slaughtering a cow meant causing heavy losses on the household, and to get deer meat it was needed to hunt for a long time. The turkey was the best choice – it is toothsome, nourishing and affordable. Breeding these birds is not difficult: they are unpretentious in nutrition and they grow quickly, gaining weight up to 10 kilograms. In nature, turkeys gather and roam in search of food.
In the 15th century, the turkey was brought to Europe from America. Both Indians and Europeans readily bred this former wild bird. The reason for such popularity of turkey among farmers is that it grows well. There were cases when it was possible to grow a turkey weighing up to 30 kg.
Choosing the best one, American housewives prefer a chilled turkey with the mark “free range”. The skin of the bird must be uniformly light in color, and the bird – full and elastic. Marinade, which basis is water and citrus (or apple juice), helps to make the meat soft. The main ingredient is salt – it supports to retain moisture. As a large turkey is usually chosen (one person gets not less than half a kilo of meat), it takes about a day to marinate it effectively. Then the bird is stuffed and put in the oven for three to seven hours (depending on the size). The density of meat and hardness of bones explain this duration of cooking.
The turkey is served on a wide silver dish, which is often decorated with intricate patterns or carvings and it is kept in the family as a relic. It is taken care of, polished up and used only on solemn occasions.
The stuffing depends on the imagination. Popular types of stuffing are based on white or corn bread. Nuts and spices, cabbage with sausages and fennel, potatoes with pork and giblets, mushrooms or vegetables with herbs are also added. On the East coast, the turkey is combined with oysters.
There is also no unified opinion about the way of preparing the stuffing. Some people are preparing it inside the turkey, others – outside, in a separate form. However, if you stuff a turkey right away, most likely that the meat will be overdone and the filling would not be baked. In addition, there is not much place inside the bird for the stuffing. The turkey is more convenient to cook on a brazier with a V-shaped grate. Firstly, because excess fat drains into the pallet, and secondly, because it is easy to adjust the position of the bird, smoothly turning it during the baking, this way distributing the heat evenly. If there is no such an adaptation, the pan is also suitable. According to The National Turkey Federation (NTF), only for Christmas, annually, about 22 million of these birds are eaten in the US.
To emphasize the taste of the festive dish, two sauces are used- gravy and cranberry. Meat gravy sauce, in which cognac is added for the mellowed taste, is intended to emphasize the rich taste of the bird. Cranberry sauce could be both liquid, and dense (like jelly), but it is always sweet.
The first Thanksgiving Day, which was arranged by the pilgrims, lasted for four days. Apparently, the inhabitants had a difficult winter. Today’s Americans are more moderate in entertainment, as the modern Thanksgiving Day lasts only for one day (except for the subsequent weekend). On the last Thursday of each November, they have time to participate in a traditional parade, to roast a turkey and to eat it at a richly decorated table with their relatives.
The tradition to arrange the costume parades on the Thanksgiving Day in the US cities was born thanks to the inhabitants of New York, who walked in procession to the western edge of the Central Park in 1924. Today, the most popular outfits of the festive procession participants are suits of Indians and pilgrims.