The United States of Thanksgiving

UNITED STATES

Here are delicious recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). Dig in, then tell us your choices. (New York Times)

Use our resources to get some ideas about how native and immigrant cultures shape “American food.”

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including a link to today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

This painting of the "First Thanksgiving" depicts a rich, peaceful meal shared by 17th-century Pilgrims and Native Americans. The first thanksgiving feasts in North America were actually celebrated by Spanish conquistadores more than 50 years earlier. Painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, courtesy Library of Congress

This lovely, if ridiculous and racist painting of the “First Thanksgiving” depicts a rich, peaceful meal shared by 17th-century “Pilgrims” and Native Americans. The first thanksgiving feasts in North America were actually celebrated by Spanish conquistadores more than 50 years earlier.
Painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, courtesy Library of Congress

Discussion Ideas

What would YOU label the United States of Thanksgiving?

What would YOU label the United States of Thanksgiving?

 

What would YOU consider your state dish?

Would you start off with a floral salad from Washington, served on a paper plate? Or maybe a fresh seaweed salad steamed on a Hawaiian beach? Photograph by Sam Abell (left) and Matthieu Paley (right), National Geographic

Would you start off with a floral salad from Washington, served on a paper plate? Or maybe a fresh seaweed salad steamed on a Hawaiian beach?
Photograph by Sam Abell (left) and Matthieu Paley (right), National Geographic

Would your main course be traditional New England roast turkey? Or maybe turkey tamales from New Mexico? Photographs by Mark Thiessen (left) and Andrew Evans (right), National Geographic

Would your main course be traditional New England roast turkey? Or maybe turkey tamales from New Mexico?
Photographs by Mark Thiessen (left) and Andrew Evans (right), National Geographic

Would you finish off with a chocolate pecan pie from Alabama? Or a maybe a Florida pecan tart? Photographs by Susan Seubert (left), National Geographic, and Katy Warner (right), courtesy Wikimedia. (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Would you finish off with a chocolate pecan pie from Alabama? Or a maybe a Florida pecan tart?
Photographs by Susan Seubert (left), National Geographic, and Katy Warner (right), courtesy Wikimedia. (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

 

  • How has physical geography influenced the ingredients or preparation of your state dish?
    • Consider climate, biodiversity, and even elevation. Some examples:
      • From the NY Times Alabama recipe: “Restaurateur Lucy Buffett and her famous brother, Jimmy, grew up in Mobile, where seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is a key player in the culinary canon.”
      • From the NY Times Indiana recipe: “Wild persimmons start to blush along the country roads of Indiana in late September, stealing the colors of sunset and weighing down their trees like Christmas balls.”
      • From the NY Times North Carolina recipe: “North Carolina and sweet potatoes go way back. The relationship hinges on a history of abundance. ‘Sweet potatoes were plentiful, even among the poorest folks of any ethnicity,’ says one expert. ‘Enslaved Africans used sweet potatoes in place of yams and other West African root vegetables.'”
      • From the NY Times Washington recipe: “Western Washington’s coastal rainy climate means there are evergreen forests and woodlands galore, which is a boon for avid mycologists, foragers and hunter-gatherers.”

 

  • How has human geography influenced the ingredients or preparation of your state dish?
    • Consider immigration patterns, cultural traditions, and religious heritage. For an example, read our terrific article about Latinos, the newest wave of immigrants to the New Orleans, and how different immigrant groups have influenced the “Crescent City”‘s famous foodie scene! (And look forward to crawfish tacos on your next visit!) Some examples:
      • From the NY Times Washington, D.C. recipe: “President Obama’s first state dinner at the White House, just before Thanksgiving in November 2009, honored Manmohan Singh, then the prime minister of India, and his wife, Gursharan Kaur. The chef for the dinner ‘flavored a very American pumpkin pie with a staple of Indian cuisine: garam masala.'”
      • From the NY Times Nevada recipe: “Like many restaurant workers toiling in Las Vegas, Executive Chef Eric Klein spends Thanksgiving Day dishing out turkey and trimmings to vacationing high rollers. While the rest of the city combs shopping arcades for Black Friday deals, however, he’s making magic with the leftovers.”
      • From the NY Times North Dakota recipe: “Lefse, thin potato-dough flatbreads like Scandinavian tortillas, or Oslo injera, can be found on holiday tables throughout the upper Midwest, wherever Norwegian families settled to farm.”
      • From the NY Times Puerto Rico recipe: “What does mofongo mean to Puerto Rico? Well, what do biscuits mean to the South, or green chiles to the people of New Mexico? Mofongo, which in its most traditional form is a fried-and-mashed fusion of plantains, pork rinds, garlic and peppers, symbolizes the island’s soul food.”
      • From the NY Times Rhode Island recipe: “Indian pudding was a compromise. A mass of cornmeal, milk and molasses, baked for hours, it was born of the Puritans’ nostalgia for British hasty pudding and their adaptation to the ground-corn porridges of their Native American neighbors.”

 

  • Skim the recipes in the NY Times interactive. What state cuisine are you most intrigued by? What dish are you most curious to try?
    • For me, both are Hawaii: “Thanksgiving dinner in Hawaii may start with pineapple-Vienna-sausage skewers and lychees stuffed with cream cheese. Later there is turkey and ham, but also Spam fried rice and Filipino lumpia, maybe poke (sashimi salad), laulau (ti-leaf-wrapped meat or fish) and a Molokai sweet potato pie topped with haupia (coconut pudding). It is the crazy-quilt, all-embracing nature of the feast that makes it local-kine—that is, island-style.”

 

  • How would you, your family, or your community “interpret” your state dish? Would you add a local specialty? Make it spicier? Prepare it according to kosher, halal, or vegan guidelines? Barbecue it instead of roast it?

 

beignetmap

  • Extra credit! Read through our delicious spotlight on beignets, the official state doughnut of Louisiana. How did this tasty treat go from “scriblita to the Big Easy”? Why is this a “typical American migration story”? Can you map it using our MapMaker Interactive?
    • Scriblita were a type of ancient Roman deep-fried doughnut.
      • The Roman conquest of Gaul brought scriblita to what is now France. French bakers developed techniques that allowed dough to rise into a fluffy pastry.
      • French settlers brought their pastry recipes with them to the New World of what is now the region of Acadia, Canada.
      • The forced migration of thousands of Acadians from Canada to what is now Louisiana brought beignets to the Gulf Coast.
      • New Orleans’ nickname is the “Big Easy.” Today, beignets are a symbol of New Orleans’ French Quarter!
    • Over the centuries, millions of Americans have migrated to what is now the United States, bringing their recipes and cultures with them. The development of beignets, from ancient Rome to modern New Orleans, is a typically fascinating immigration tale.

 

This week is Geography Awareness Week, celebrating the Geography of Food! This week, our Current Event Connection will focus on Food in the News, exploring food as a dynamic, diverse interconnection between health, politics, the environment, and business.

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

New York Times: The United States of Thanksgiving

Nat Geo: United States 1-Page Map

Nat Geo: Beignets map

Nat Geo: Multicultural Stew

Nat Geo: Beignets: From Scriblita to the Big Easy

Nat Geo: Geography Awareness Week

Nat Geo: Food Education resources

5 responses to “The United States of Thanksgiving

  1. Pingback: This Week in Thanksgiving History | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. Pingback: 11 Things We Learned This Week | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  3. Pingback: 10 Things We Learned This Week! | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  4. Pingback: Did Thomas Jefferson Hate Thanksgiving? | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  5. Pingback: The State of Thanksgiving 2014 | Nat Geo Education Blog·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s