Hot brown and pretzel jello

If Thanksgiving dinner* was part of your Thursday, how was it for you and yours? In terms of tasty foods, each year our menu tends to cluster around a list that feels very traditional to me: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce almost always feature. There might be a vegetable (green beans, but not the casserole with crispy fried onions on top), sometimes a fruit salad. Oh, and rolls, in quantity.

But I know that your menu might differ substantially. Are the things I’ve listed that you don’t usually (or ever) have? Are there things you eat every year that I didn’t list? A few years back the folks who write the Upshot column at the New York Times did some research with Google about the most searched recipes for Thanksgiving. They excluded from their findings the very top searches–all 50 states search recipes for turkey. Instead, they looked for the most distinctive searches for each state. With their findings, they put together an interesting map†:

I know the print is small. This link takes you to a larger version.

How many dishes on this map have you never heard of? There’s quite a lot to explore, though some of the titles have me wondering, dirt pudding and pig pickin cake among them. I believe I’ve been served snicker salad, and unless the definition of salad stretches to include a lot of cool whip, chopped candy bars and crumbled cookies, the term has been misapplied. Frog eye salad, a dish I remember from childhood, involves things too sweet to be called a salad, but no eyes of any kind, just a very small pasta called acini di pepe, Italian for “grains of pepper.” I’m intrigued by the Puerto Rican tembleque (I have to wonder what Thanksgiving was like for the islanders, for whom dinner of any kind may still be in question on a typical day).

The NYT article lists the most popular recipe searches for each state. You may be curious to see whether you’ve had the majority of the dishes listed for your area. You can wander through the states alphabetically, or use the drop-down menu to the left under the map to jump to the state you’re interested in.

Turducken, popular in Delaware and South Dakota, is not something I’ve ever tried.

Among the dishes I haven’t tasted or haven’t heard of: bacon-wrapped dates (Illinois), cream cheese corn (Kansas), hot brown (Kentucky, which recipe I’m ready to try), mirliton casserole (Louisiana), pretzel jello (Michigan), lefse (Minnesota), spinach maria (Tennessee), taffy apple salad (Wisconsin).  Clearly, cooking for Thanksgiving is not a one-menu-fits-all arrangement. Maybe next year I’ll have to branch out a bit and try something new. Hot brown, anyone?



* I love Thanksgiving dinner, but in terms of the pleasure of actual bites of goodness going into my mouth, I think I might like the leftovers even more than I like the actual Thursday meal. Part of the reason is that when I’m surrounded by people that I love, and that I love to talk to, my attention is divided, and I can end up not fully appreciating all the tasty things I’m eating. On Friday and Saturday, if I’m mindful about it, I can savor each bite.

†If you’re interested in other map-related posts, try shapely foods, African surprise, dialects, Bolivialovers and redblue.

[Images:, NYTimes, Wikipedia]

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