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American Thanksgiving

Hello everyone! I already started baking cakes and sweets for tomorrow's big Thanksgiving celebration. My apartment currently smells like cookies, pumpkin and cinnamon. :) This year, my friends from Austria are visiting and I'll have no time to photograph the celebration again. I shared this post last year, and many new readers have come to my blog since then. So, I'm reposting in case people are curious how an average, middle-class American family celebrates the holiday. Of course, all American families have their own traditions. Some have more formal gatherings, but this is not my family's style. Simple, blue-collar working folk, who prefer a more laid back, casual style.

I wish all my readers in America and those celebrating abroad a very festive and happy holiday!

Originally posted by peacetraveler22 at American Thanksgiving

If you ask any American what their favorite holiday is, the top two answers will be Thanksgiving and Christmas. These are the most popular holidays in the States, and on both occasions even distant relatives gather together for large feasts and companionship. On Thursday, households around the country will eat turkey and other traditional foods to celebrate Thanksgiving.

The origin of the holiday dates back to the early 1600's when Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in early winter. It was too cold to grow crops, and with no food many of the new settlers died. The following spring, Indians showed them how to grow corn, hunt and fish. They were great teachers and the next autumn brought bountiful harvests of corn, beans and pumpkins. To celebrate the harvest and give thanks, the Pilgrims arranged a huge feast, inviting the Chief and almost 100 other Indians to the celebration. In 1863 during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday to be celebrated on 26 November. However, the date is no longer set to the 26th but instead to the last Thursday in the month of November. Thus, the holiday falls on different dates each calendar year. Now let's take a look at how my family celebrates.

1. It all begins the evening before, when one of my mom's sisters starts baking the turkey in the oven. We generally have several turkeys as about 40 relatives and friends gather at the same house for the meal. On Thursday morning, I will arrive at my parents house and find my mom cooking two of my favorite dishes. The first is a broccoli casserole, which consists of cooked broccoli, cream of mushroom soup, lots of cheddar cheese and onions, all topped with bread crumbs. The second, macaroni 'n' cheese, is an American classic. Known as "comfort food." Delicious! Noodles, heavy cream, lots of cheeses and sour cream thrown in for extra richness.


2. We always separate dark meat from white meat. Here, a bowl of dark meat turkey. I don't like it, preferring only lean, white meat.


3. Meat, meat and more meat! My family also makes a ham for the feast.


4. For the first time, we ate wild game last year! My cousin's boyfriend shot the turkey, gutted it and fried the breast meat. In recent years, it has become popular for Americans to deep fry turkeys. Here's an iPhone pic of the kill. Shot with a bow and arrow, about 20 yards away.


5. First, the hunter injects the breast meat with a garlic butter and herb marinade.


6. Next, sprinkle the breasts with Cajun seasoning.


7. We also fry a whole turkey, which is prepared and seasoned the same way. Poor creature, looks so hopeless but very tasty! I was confused why we didn't fry more of the wild game. According to the hunter, the legs and wings of wild turkeys are too tough because they're running around in the wild and thus have much tighter muscles than traditional caged turkeys who are less mobile.


8. Deep frying a turkey is some kind of precise science. It's necessary to determine the proper amount of oil, temperature, etc. There have been a lot of serious injuries and severe burns from people improperly cooking them, having oil overflow from the deep fryer and even turkey explosions from being cooked at temperatures too hot. This turkey required 3 gallons of peanut oil. About 1/8 of the oil is lost when the turkey is done. It's necessary to watch at all times to ensure proper cooking, which usually takes 3 1/2 minutes per pound. Very fast way to cook a turkey!! This one took about an hour.


9. Finished product. If it's not cooked properly, the outside will be charred and inside raw. But we had a master fryer and the meat was perfect.


10. What else do we eat? Each year, one of my cousins makes this dish consisting of crushed pineapple, condensed milk and cinnamon. It's a great side dish with the ham. Lots of traditional autumn vegetables like corn, green beans, squash and sweet potatoes also are served.


11. Salad consisting of cucumbers, onions and tomatoes in a vinegar type dressing. Almost everyone in my family likes cucumbers, except me! In the back, cookies and traditional cranberries which are served at almost every Thanksgiving dinner in America.


12. My favorite part is always the dessert! We have a full table of them. My mom makes this dish called "lemon lush." Filled with lemon pudding, cream cheese, and layers of whipped cream. The crust is brown sugar, walnuts, and flower. Topped with more nuts. It's everyone's favorite sweet at our holiday gatherings.


13. My cousin's wife always brings a basket of homemade chocolate chip cookies to all family gatherings.


14. Pumpkin roll. Basically a type of spiced cake, with rolls of cream and topped with white icing. In the background, pumpkin pie and some fudge.


15. Yellow cake topped with strawberry glaze and whipped cream. Coconut pie and brownies also in the frame.


16. Here's my contribution to the feast - fresh baked cupcakes!


17. Here's my dad's first plate of food. My family eats off of paper plates. Nothing fancy, a very casual gathering. And who wants to do dishes for forty people? It's enough time and effort to prepare the feast and clean all the dishes used during meal preparation. You will see on his plate another traditional Thanksgiving food - mashed potatoes and gravy.


18. One of the tables before everyone gathers.


19. Seasonal decorations at my aunt's house.


20. My mom and sister were first at the table.


21. The room fills very quickly, people eating at different tables. Some people eat outside on the porch, some on the sofa. There's not enough room for everyone to be gathered in the same spot.


22. At almost every family gathering I meet someone new. We always welcome strays, people who have family living out of State or even overseas and nowhere to celebrate. This year a pleasant surprise when I discovered this guest is from Slovakia! He's going to school at the University of South Carolina with one of my cousin's friends. He previously studied in Moscow and is now getting his Master's in international business. He speaks good Russian. :) Interesting to chat with him about his home country, which I recently visited.


23. My aunt's house in Manassas, where the feast has been held every year since I was a child.


24. Before and after the meal, everyone hangs out in the yard, in the house and other gathering areas to chat.


25. Young boys play football.


26. Gymnast and future family Olympian. :)


27. Family gypsies selling handmade bracelets for $1. :))


28. Cousin Tim and his peach moonshine from Lynchburg, Virginia. He promised to bring strawberry moonshine to the Christmas gathering.


29. Relaxing in the living room, typical gathering spot in American homes.


30. More cousins, yes I have a lot of them!


31. Our turkey fryer and hunting enthusiast! Thanks for the tasty wild game.


32. At the end of the day, people start thinking about "Black Friday." This is the busiest shopping day in America, with many retail stores offering huge Christmas discounts for buyers arriving in the early morning. For the first time, the sales started on Thanksgiving evening last year. Some electronics like TVs and laptops are reduced by 30% - 40% on Black Friday, but there are a limited number available for this price. So people line up hours before the stores open, hoping to get their hands on one of the discounted items. Here, my sister and cousin make lists and map out their shopping route for the next two days. This is some type of chaotic scene in the stores! I don't like shopping in the first place, and definitely not on Black Friday so I leave that excitement to Jennifer and Heather.


33. Typical Black Friday scene. I do almost all of my Christmas shopping online now to avoid scenes like this.


So what do you think? See any tasty foods? :)


( 99 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 26th, 2014 04:45 pm (UTC)
Absolutely fabulous!
Thank you for this cheerful and very informative post. I'll give a link to my daughter, they study different holidays at their English classes. It's so much better than any textbooks:))))))
40 guests at a time, ugh! And all this food, is it all really homemade? And they say Americans don't cook! The desserts look delicious. Some food looks familiar to us (cupcakes, for instance, or mashed potatoes), but some are quite strange. And I've learned a new word - moonshine - how poetic:))) Although the quantity looks like something experimental. Btw, what do you usually drink? And do any guest stay overnight?
Happy Thanksgiving!
Nov. 26th, 2014 04:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Absolutely fabulous!
Thanks! I thought you would have seen this post last year, because you have been reading my blog for a long time. :) People think Americans don't cook? It's very amusing, I didn't know this was another stereotype about us. Almost all of this food is homemade, except some of the rolls (breads), and sometimes people buy pumpkin and apple pies from the store. All the vegetables, meats, casseroles, etc. are made by different family members. We each bring a separate dish, so no one person is burdened with all the work. The moonshine is also homemade, and you're right - a bit of an experiment. It's so strong!! :)) I do not drink alcohol very often, nor do I drink soda. I'm drinking water or herbal tea almost all the time. Usually one cup of coffee per day in the morning. No one stays overnight. Almost all of my family are living very close to each other in the same town, so we just go home after the feast, put our pajamas on, and relax. :) I hope your daughter will enjoy the post!
Re: Absolutely fabulous! - sineglazzka2301 - Nov. 26th, 2014 05:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Absolutely fabulous! - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 26th, 2014 05:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Absolutely fabulous! - sineglazzka2301 - Nov. 26th, 2014 05:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Absolutely fabulous! - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 26th, 2014 05:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 26th, 2014 04:59 pm (UTC)
Did you invite any indians to your feast?...
Nov. 26th, 2014 05:00 pm (UTC)
My mom's family has Cherokee roots, so sort of. :)
(no subject) - vitsky - Nov. 26th, 2014 05:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 26th, 2014 05:32 pm (UTC)
Re: thank you
You're welcome! Is this a common meat in Russia? I've never noticed much turkey there. In the U.S., we mostly eat this meat at holidays.
Nov. 26th, 2014 06:27 pm (UTC)
Bon appetit :)
Nov. 26th, 2014 06:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Vlad! :)
Nov. 26th, 2014 06:53 pm (UTC)
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your wonderful family! And... I'll cook tomorrow.
Nov. 26th, 2014 06:55 pm (UTC)
Same to you! What will you make? Do you incorporate any traditional Russian food into the feast?
(no subject) - inescher - Nov. 26th, 2014 07:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 26th, 2014 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - inescher - Nov. 26th, 2014 07:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 26th, 2014 07:03 pm (UTC)
so tasty ))
Nov. 26th, 2014 07:04 pm (UTC)
I agree! :)
Nov. 26th, 2014 07:25 pm (UTC)
I wish you a happy Thanksgiving Day and thank you for your blog.

Black Friday is really black judging by those videos on youtube. Americans are certainly the most passionate nation in the world. But it's not always for good.
Nov. 26th, 2014 07:26 pm (UTC)
You are thankful for my blog? :) It's nice to hear! What videos on YouTube?
(no subject) - skvorets1989 - Nov. 26th, 2014 07:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 26th, 2014 07:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - skvorets1989 - Nov. 26th, 2014 08:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 26th, 2014 07:28 pm (UTC)
За чей счет этот банкет?
Nov. 26th, 2014 07:47 pm (UTC)
зачем это в рус жж?
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 27th, 2014 12:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 26th, 2014 07:35 pm (UTC)
I am certain that we need to try American homemade food if we get to America on sich a festive occasion. So please keep us in mind when you build up your list of 40+ guests! :)

Many people around believe that Americans usually eat fatty and unhealthy fast food in the US simply because there is almost a cult of fast food originating from the Hollywood movie stereotypes. And people tend not to be critical.

I know that is not so. But I also learned from the family of our friends that they put significant efforts to get really good ingredients from the local shops. Specifically, they are quite selective where to buy vegetables, cereals, fruits, milk, bread, etc. Do you also pay attention to this?
Nov. 26th, 2014 08:41 pm (UTC)
You know you are always welcome! Next time you come, we can have a barbecue at my parent's house. :) I'm not permitted to have grills on my apartment balcony. Those who believe Americans are stuffing their faces with fast food and hamburgers every day have never been here, or don't have any relationships or connections to Americans. Many people eat these foods on occasion, but our diet is more diverse. Honestly, I am not obsessive about food. I'm eating mostly lean chicken breast, pasta, vegetables and soups. But obviously you have met me, and know I have meat on my bones and am not anorexic. This is because I love cakes and sweets. :) I usually prepare all of my own food, rather than buying canned vegetables, etc. It's easy to eat healthy, organic, etc. if you want, esp. in big cities when there are a lot of options. It's probably different and more difficult in more rural towns.

Edited at 2014-11-26 08:43 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 27th, 2014 12:51 am (UTC)
Family is absolutely the most important thing to me! I have a very large family, and for this I'm so grateful. My mom has ten siblings. :)
Nov. 26th, 2014 07:49 pm (UTC)
Very nice. Although the relationship with the native Americans has not always been smooth, I'm glad to know that the US government has apologized to them and allowed them to have tax-free casinos and build a museum in Manhattan, etc.
Nov. 26th, 2014 07:57 pm (UTC)
If Earth was occupied by green ETs would it be enough for us to have a museum and casinos but having our history cut?
(no subject) - pasha1980 - Nov. 26th, 2014 08:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Nov. 26th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pasha1980 - Nov. 26th, 2014 08:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - skvorets1989 - Nov. 26th, 2014 08:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pasha1980 - Nov. 26th, 2014 08:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 26th, 2014 08:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pasha1980 - Nov. 26th, 2014 09:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 26th, 2014 09:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 26th, 2014 07:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, those crazy Americans in shorts again! :))
Interestingly enough, I see many Americans have their backs shaped in the shape of car seats forever...
People who almost don't walk have a different standing posture :))
Nov. 26th, 2014 07:55 pm (UTC)
This year it's cold - snow today! :))
(no subject) - omurtag - Nov. 26th, 2014 07:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 26th, 2014 08:00 pm (UTC)
Нет такого праздника. :)
(no subject) - omurtag - Nov. 26th, 2014 08:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - moonrainbow - Nov. 26th, 2014 08:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - moonrainbow - Nov. 26th, 2014 08:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - omurtag - Nov. 26th, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
- peacetraveler22 - Nov. 26th, 2014 10:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: - sineglazzka2301 - Nov. 27th, 2014 04:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 27th, 2014 03:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: - sineglazzka2301 - Nov. 27th, 2014 03:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 27th, 2014 04:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 26th, 2014 09:08 pm (UTC)
Pic № 31: He is amazing!
And I can't watch all your meal, I loose my senses!!!
SOS!!! Help!!!
Nov. 26th, 2014 09:10 pm (UTC)
Pic. 31 - yes, he's very handsome and rugged. A mountain man! :) I like this type of guy, who is handy and can do a lot of practical things. The main thing is that he's very caring and kind. My cousin is a lucky lady to have found him.
(no subject) - real_marsel - Nov. 26th, 2014 09:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 26th, 2014 09:31 pm (UTC)
I love it this way:

Actually, I adore Chuck Wysocki, all the years have calendars with his pictures on the wall.
Nov. 26th, 2014 09:36 pm (UTC)
Cool. :) Are you getting a lot of snow there? We have huge snowflakes, but nothing is sticking. Enjoy the holiday with your family!
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Nov. 26th, 2014 09:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 26th, 2014 10:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Nov. 26th, 2014 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 26th, 2014 10:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Nov. 26th, 2014 10:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 26th, 2014 11:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
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