The holiday season is here! What better way to celebrate than with food! This week’s blog will explore the history of some classic holiday favorites and how they have become some of our most beloved seasonal dishes. Enjoy!
Turkey is a classic! Nearly 90% of U.S. households serve turkey for Thanksgiving this year. In 1970, half of all turkey sold throughout the year was consumed during the holidays. In the last 50 years, turkey consumption has increased year-round, and only 29% of all turkey purchased in the U.S. today is eaten during the holiday season.
Turkey is native to Eastern America and Mexico, so it stands to reason that it became a staple for the American thanksgiving holiday. The turkey was brought back to Europe after it was discovered in America and became very popular for British holiday meals, especially among royalty. The average thanksgiving turkey weighs 15 pounds and has about 70% white meat and 30% dark meat.
Turkey is for thanksgiving, but what do you serve for Christmas? Typically the contest is between ham and turkey, but the traditional meat is actually roast goose. In Victorian times, goose was synonymous with Christmas-time, and many Jews celebrate Hanukkah with a roasted goose. Geese, because of their migration pattern, would tend to show up around the holiday season, making them a popular choice for meat. However, in modern times they have fallen from favor in American homes.
Goose is mainly a white meat bird, like its counterpart turkey and chicken, but the meat has a much stronger flavor than other poultry since geese use their wings to fly much more than chickens and turkeys do.
Pumpkins were first cultivated in Central America as early as 5,500BC. This is one food that was likely eaten at the very first thanksgiving, however, likely not in the same fashion we know it today. The traditional pumpkin pie recipe instructs cooks to boil the pumpkin in milk and strain it before placing it in the crust. Another 17th century recipe calls for alternating layers of pumpkin flesh and apples with spiced rosemary, marjoram, and thyme flavorings.
Today, we are more accustomed to canned pumpkin pie filling. In 1929, Libby’s meat canning company came out with the first canned pumpkin filling so cooks would not need to roast and strain their own squash. This has since become their most well-known and best-selling item.
Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole is a classic, four-ingredient dish consisting of French fried onions, green beans, milk, and cream of mushroom soup. Similar to Libby’s, Campbell’s disrupted the market with their introduction of Cream of Mushroom soup. In 1950 when the post-war economy was booming, Campbell’s became known for their test kitchen recipes printed in ads, newspapers, and, of course, on their products. In 1955, Dorcas Reilly, a home economist working for Campbell’s, created the recipe and submitted the family favorite to headquarters for approval. After it was approved and went to print, it soon became a beloved family favorite, especially around the holidays. In fact, the dish will be served on 30% of American’s tables this holiday season.
Eggnog: a traditional drink served at holiday get-togethers containing eggs, sugar, milk and some sort of alcohol. (Although, there are plenty of non-alcoholic versions as well!) The literal meaning of eggnog is “egg inside a small cup” and evolved from a hot British drink known as “posset,” consisting of eggs, milk, and ale or wine. Milk, eggs, and sherry were considered foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health.
Depending on the locale, the alcohol in the drink varies. In the South, most people drink their eggnog with bourbon. In other places, you might find eggnog with rum or brandy. As with any good holiday food, moderation is key! This is especially true for eggnog. Not only for the alcohol, but also for the richness of the drink as many pack 400 calories per 8oz cup!
Whatever your family tradition, we hope you enjoy some delicious local foods this holiday season. Many of the ingredients for these classic family dishes can be found from producers in and around the Dubuque area. Eggs, turkey, and pumpkins can all be found in the Tri-State area this time of year. Don’t know any farmers? Check out the Winter Farmers Market in the former Colts building on Central Avenue on Saturday mornings to get some local items. Or if you are shopping at the grocery store, look for the “eat local” tags posted on locally sourced foods.
Most importantly, have a great holiday season, and enjoy good food, friends, and family!