How 5 Thanksgiving dishes came to exist

Pie is the most popular dessert after a holiday meal. Its origins trace back to the 18th century.
Photo from Pixabay

MEGAN COURTNEY Culture Editor

This Thanksgiving, dishes like turkey, green bean casserole and pie will fill tables all across America. These are all common dishes, but do you ever wonder how they were created and why they’re so popular?

1. Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows (aka yams)

Does your family eat this on Thanksgiving? Do you ever wonder how it became a thing? Well, according to the Library of Congress, the earliest cultivation records for sweet potatoes dated way back to 750 BCE in Peru, but by 1880, Americans were enjoying variations of candied sweet potatoes by following recipes from cookbooks, like the “Boston Cooking School Cookbook,” published in 1893. This cookbook featured a recipe for glazed sweet potatoes. One of the earliest recipes that incorporated marshmallows into sweet potato casserole dates back to a 1917 magazine called Saveur Magazine when marketers of “Angelus Marshmallow” hired Janet McKenzie Hill to develop recipes for a booklet that was “designed to encourage home cooks to embrace the candy as an everyday ingredient.”

2. Cranberry sauce

This Thanksgiving staple is incorporated with stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, and of course, the turkey, but why? According to Insider, recipes for cranberry sauce date back to the 17th century with the Native Americans, and by the 18th century, it was “a known accompaniment to game meat like turkey.” The first known recipe for cranberry sauce comes from Amelia Simmons’s 1796 cookbook “American Cookery.” You may see the jellied cranberries on tables nowadays, and we can thank Ocean Spray for that. Since 1912, the company has been turning the berries into a “jelly-like consistency.”

Fun fact: Every year during the holidays, Americans consume 5,062,500 gallons of jellied cranberry sauce.

3. Green bean casserole

A dish that has many variations and happens to be the newest addition to the Thanksgiving dinner. This concoction was created in 1955 when Dorcas Reilly, who died in October of this year and worked as a home economist for the Campbell Soup Company, was asked to create a dish that used condensed cream of mushroom soup. Reilly’s final product included cream of mushroom soup, green beans, soy sauce, pepper, milk and French’s French Fried Onions. It’s considered a “perfect dish for the holidays” because it’s simple to make, inexpensive and could quickly be made. Its nickname was the “jiffy casserole” because it could easily go from one bowl to one pan.

If you’re looking for ways to spice up your green bean casserole, there are tons of suggestions on Campbell’s website.

4. Turkey

The literal centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner, the star of the show. How did it become so popular? Well, it wasn’t because of the Pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621, believe it or not. Sarah Josepha Hale, known as the “Godmother of Thanksgiving,” wrote about the early celebrations of the holiday in New England. Her accounts, according to TIME Magazine, “emphasized” a roast turkey, which eventually became the model for other Thanksgiving dinners in America after Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863.

5. Pie 

Whether it be pumpkin, apple, pecan or cherry, everyone has a favorite pie to eat for dessert after their meal, but why is pie our go-to choice? Well, in the late 18th century, Thanksgiving was no longer a church-celebrated holiday. Also around this time, there was a wave of immigration from the United Kingdom to the United States, and the British brought with them the idea of a pastry shell. A cake was also more challenging to make during this time before the invention of baking powder. 

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About Megan Courtney 161 Articles
Megan is our on-staff entertainment master. Music is her passion, and she makes sure to bring you the best entertainment news. Our super senior Megan is a long-time employee at Sam's Club outside of school and is a Member Service Cashier. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Lindenwood Community of Odyssey. When she's not whipping up concert or album reviews, you can catch her hanging out in the LARC which is her favorite spot on campus.