Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks for America’s Bounty

Thanksgiving in the United States began as a way to give thanks for the year’s harvest, and the contents of the dinner table continue to occupy center stage. Food preparation often begins at dawn, and many families sit down to the main meal at midday or early afternoon. The practice not only gives diners plenty of time to enjoy the meal, but also harks back to the days before electric lighting was invented and the biggest meal of the day would take place around noon.

While the typical Thanksgiving meal includes traditional foods such as turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, how those staples are interpreted depends largely on who is doing the cooking. Different family traditions, ethnic backgrounds and regional flavors make each Thanksgiving meal unique, including vegetarian options that either can mimic the taste of turkey or replace it with an alternative main dish.

Thanksgiving 2013 offers a unique opportunity for Jewish-American families to import their cultural heritage into the holiday because it coincides with the first day of Hanukkah. The coincidence was nicknamed “Thanksgivukkah,” and the last time the two celebrations overlapped was in 1888. The Thanksgivukkah meal could include dishes such as pastrami-wrapped fried turkey served with horseradish pickled onions and pumpkin sufganiyot (similar to donuts) for dessert.

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