Although the celebrated American turkey was probably not consumed by the Pilgrims on their first Thanksgiving in 1621, they probably did devour it at other times, and no matter what history tells us, turkey is the centerpiece on Turkey Day.
Early Pilgrim settlers probably did eat other fowl, such as geese, ducks, swans, pheasants and other birds, as well as fish, molluscs, crabs and lobster, and a wealth of vegetables, corn, potatoes and squash on their first Thanksgiving after their first harsh winter. There would have been apples, pears, crab apples and nuts.
The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by Pilgrims who had been persecuted for their religious beliefs in England and sailed to the state of Massachusetts. Nearly half of the settlers died because they were unprepared for the ferocious cold of North America, had no cultivation skills, and were unable to deal treat disease.
With the help of the Wampanoag Native Americans, the English learned to plant crops, fish and hunt.
Their second harvest was bountiful and there was plenty of eating, dancing, singing and playing games.
Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving is observed primarily by Americans and Canadians and Thanksgiving feasts, usually buffets, are served in local five-star hotels and Western restaurants.
Today, turkey is sometimes replaced with other fowl and even seafood. Venison takes the place of turkey in some northeastern areas.
Some people choose crab as the centerpiece.
Foreign immigrants have added their own centerpieces and side dishes to Thanksgiving.
Chinese sometimes replace turkey with Peking roast duck; Italians add pastas; East Europeans added various specialties, such as kugel, a sweet noodle pudding.
Many other countries around the world express thanks for the autumn harvest.
In Germany, Thanksgiving is called Erntedankfest, or harvest festival. Although not a national holiday, it is usually celebrated on the first Sunday in October, primarily in rural areas. Stuffed roasted goose is the centerpiece, with plenty of side dishes.
In Japan, Thanksgiving is a national holiday on November 23, known as Labor Thanksgiving. On that day, Japanese taste the new rice harvest and commemorate farm work and production.
For some expats, there's nothing like preparing their own turkey, goose or duck, stuffing, and side dishes for family and friends. It's an occasion of reunion and giving thanks.
Shanghai Daily invited three city chefs to share their signature Thanksgiving home recipes.
You can also try these for Christmas, or any festive occasion.
Roast turkey (serves 8)
Jack Zhang, head chef at Moon's Steakhouse
One 12-lb turkey; 2 lbs chestnuts, 2 cups of butter, 2 cups of minced onion, 2 cups of minced bacon, 10 cups of dried bread cubes, 1tsp dried thyme, 1 bunch sage, 1 tsp dried rosemary, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
1. To prepare stuffing, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onions and bacon.
2. Thoroughly mix in bread crumbs and chestnuts. Season with thyme, sage, rosemary.
3. Wash turkey with cold water and pat dry. Rub salt and pepper into body cavities. Loosely spoon stuffing into body cavities.
4. Close skin with skewers or kitchen twine and tie drumsticks together.
5. Place turkey on a rack in a medium roasting pan. Roast three to four hours in the preheated oven. A foil tent may be placed over the turkey during the last half of roasting time to avoid over browning.
6. Remove from oven, place on platter, and allow to stand for 20 minutes before carving.
Ralf Hartlieb, executive pastry chef at Fairmont Peace Hotel
Pumpkin puree (200g); cream cheese (200g); sugar (100g); heavy cream (100ml); all-purpose flour (60g); ground cinnamon (to taste); egg yolk (4 pc); egg white (4 pc); lemon juice (1/2 pc)
1. Mix pumpkin puree with cream cheese and sugar. Add flour, ground cinnamon and egg yolk.
2. Whip egg whites with lemon juice to soft peak meringue. Fold the meringue into the pumpkin puree mix.
3. Place filling into sweet pie shells. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes.
4. Finish with dusted icing sugar or with glaze.
German roast goose (serves 6-8) with potato dumplings, braised red cabbage and gravy
Michael Walter Dinges, executive chef at Grand Hyatt Shanghai
Ingredients: 1 goose (4kg), cleaned and dressed; one orange, peeled; two red apples; one onion; a small bouquet of thyme; three bay leaves; salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Wash and dry the goose inside and out. Cut the onion, apples and orange into big cubes and add these to a mixing bowl with salt, pepper, bay leave and thyme sprigs.
2. Fill goose with the mixture and tight legs together with a butcher string. Pierce the goose skin in several places to let the fat drip out as it cooks.
3. Season the goose outside evenly with salt and pepper, and place the goose, breast-side down on a roasting rack. Place a deep cooking rack underneath to collect dripping fat. Place goose in oven and baste with a brush every 20 minutes with drippings.
4. After 50 minutes turn goose onto its back and continue for another 50 minutes. Brush a few more times so that the skin turns to an olden brown color.
6. To ensure the goose is well cooked, take a long metal needle and stick it into the goose leg. If the resulting juice is clear, the goose is ready to serve. If the juice contains blood, cook for a few more minutes until ready.
7. Let the goose rest for a5-10 minutes before serving.
Potato (1kg); egg (2 pc); flour (150g); semolina (50g); salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste
1. Cook potatoes with skin, allow to cool, peel. Puree the potatoes with a vegetable mill and set aside. Mix old potato puree with egg, semolina and flour. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well. Portion the dough and form it into round balls (5cm in diameter).
2. Add dumplings to hot salted water. Bring water to boil and simmer the dumplings for 10-15 minutes until they are fully poached.
Braised red cabbage
Shredded red cabbage (1kg); onion julienned (100g); peeled and julienned red apple (150g); duck fat (50g); sugar (2 tbsp); raspberry vinegar (2 tbsp); apple juice (100ml); water (100ml); red wine (100ml); black currant jam (50g); cinnamon stick (1/2 pc); bay leave (1 pc); clove (2 pc); juniper berries (3 pc); black peppercorn (4 pc); pepper and salt, to taste.
1. Marinate cabbage, onion (50g) and apple with sugar, salt, pepper, apple juice and red wine. Mix well. Place bay leaf, peppercorns, clove, cinnamon, juniper berries in a teabag and place bag in marinated mixture, mixing occasionally. Place cabbage mixture in refrigerator overnight.
2. To a heavy pan on medium heat, add duck fat and sauted onion (50g). Add marinated cabbage, sauteing for 5 minutes. Top up with water.
3. Bring cabbage to boil, reduce heat, let cabbage braise until soft. Remove from pan and cool.
4. Reheat cabbage and season it with salt, sugar, pepper and cinnamon if necessary. Then add black currant jam.
Where to buy ingredients and seasonings
city'super, Shanghai IFC Mall
Address: LG2, 8 Century Ave, Pudong
For those who don't want to cook, we have selected Thanksgiving dinner buffets at two hotels, both menus recently launched.
Le Royal Meridien Shanghai
The hotel offers a diverse Thanksgiving dinner buffet at Le Bistro, where, featuring regional favorites. The buffet includes cold dishes, soup, bread, roast carving corner and five dessert stations. The green salad is made with butter lettuce, orange, caramelized walnuts and cranberries. Roast turkey is stuffed with celery and sausage, served with cranberry sauce and giblet gravy.
Price: 325 yuan/person+15% (including free-flow whisky and house wine)
Date: November 22-24
Venue: Le Bistro, 789 Nanjing Rd E.
Tel: 3318-9999 ext 7001
From today through Saturday, the hotel will deliver a turkey (1,188 yuan) dinner to your home. The 6kg turkey is stuffed with celery and sausage, accompanied by sprouts, sweet potatoes and bottle of gravy. Advance order is required.
Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel
A lavish dinner is offered on Thanksgiving day, featuring a variety of traditional food. It includes roast turkey, prime rib, pumpkin pie and American cheese cake.