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Northern versus Southern Thanksgiving Meals: What's the Diff?

Just taking a stab in the dark here:

North, bread stuffing -- South, cornbread dressing
North, pumpkin pie -- South, pecan and/or sweet potato pie are likely to appear
North, turkey reigns supreme -- South, ham is a contender

Anything else? Am I all wet? Fire away.

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  1. I and "my people" are from the South. We had turkey, giblet gravy(with slices of hard bolied egg), cornbread stuffing, pecan pie, cooked to death green beans-NOT the ubiquitous GB casserole, although we did have a similarly prepared yellow squash casserole and sweet potato souffle with a pecan streusel topping. We never had mashed potatoes, mostly because my dad was the main cook, and he didn't like them, but we did always have white rice and usually also wild rice with mushrooms. We usually had 2 turkeys- 1 smoked and 1 roasted with stuffing.

    My DH was born and raised in the CT/NYC area, and his people are from VA/NC, and they always had ham, turkey, GB casserole, sweet potato pie and Mac and cheese at holiday gatherings.

    Because we are now so far from most of both of our families, we rarely have holidays with them, so on our holidays on our own, I make a compromise of both traditions- roasted turkey with cornbread stuffing (although I omit the water chestnuts my dad always put in, because DH freaked out when I put them in the first time I made Thanksgiving Dinner- and I STILL REALLY MISS THEM); Turkey gravy with giblets in the stock, but not in the gravy itself; mac and cheese- I make really excellent mac and cheese, if I may say so myself; my family's green beans- he doesn't eat them any way they are prepared, so I might as well have them the way I want them; sweet potato pie. That's it. Not so much cooking that it's overwhelming, and not tons of leftovers if I am only cooking for the 2 of us, or sometimes 3 if a friend joins us.

    1. I can only attest to the cornbread vs. bread stuffing. I'd never heard of cornbread stuffing until my early 20s when attending a Thanksgiving party of fellow Peace Corps volunteers.

      1. I have only recently been clued into the Southern touches of my family's Thanksgiving dinner since spending more time in the North. My family is most definietly Southern-rooted. It seems our Southern staples include:

        Sweet potato pie: we only recently discovered the existence of pumpkin pie a few years ago, it was ALWAYS sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas, this fascination with pumpkin pie was unheard of

        Macaroni and cheese: a MUST! It is always a front and center side dish and the highlight side dish for most of us. It is always baked, Southern custard style.

        Dressing: it is always called dressing, always cooked outside of the bird (though, some is also stuffed in the bird but it usually stays there or people nibble off the crispy bits on top)

        Ham: there is always a ginormous turkey, but ham is also always present.

        19 Replies
        1. re: fldhkybnva

          Wow, mac & cheese? I am from Mississippi, where mac & cheese is considered to be a vegetable, and is near the base of all "food pyramids," I have never seen it at any Thanksgiving meal, but maybe I led a sheltered life? That is a new one to me, and here I thought that I was a "son of the Old South."


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            You're missing out. You should demand that this delicious vegetable be included at all holiday meals for nutrition purposes of course.

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Bill, I suspect the macaroni and cheese could be another Georgia regionalism.

              1. re: jmcarthur8

                Have lived in Georgia 52 years and nobody on either side of the family (who have all lived here for many generations) have ever served mac and cheese at Thanksgiving.

                1. re: kengk

                  I'm sure it's not mandatory for every family. ;-)

                2. re: jmcarthur8

                  and I've seen it in Tennessee and Florida...

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Could it be that mac and cheese is mandatory at all extended family gatherings, from Thanksgiving to 4th of July picnics - at least for some families?

                      1. re: sunshine842


                        We never had macaroni and cheese at any meal. It's just not something my mom ever made. Doesn't mean I don't have it now, but not for holidays.

                      2. re: paulj

                        I'd never heard of Mac & Cheese for Thanksgiving until I worked at my sons' grammar school in the late 90s up in Northwest Indiana. The only kids who had it were a couple of black kids and a white kid with MeeMaws in Atlanta. I didn't know what Southern macaroni and cheese was until I moved to the Atlanta area myself 10 years ago.

                        1. re: jmcarthur8

                          I assume the Thanksgiving M&C is the 'fancy' baked kind, not the stove top version that I whip up for lunch.

                          1. re: paulj

                            Of course! ;-)
                            The fancy one that includes Velveeta and/or eggs, along with sharp cheddar, etc.

                            1. re: jmcarthur8

                              ewwh...no Velveeta in our mac and cheese...i think that recipe was older than the invention of velveeta. we did have the "fancy" kind though. I never saw the stove top mac and cheese until I was an adult. As far as i knew, all mac and cheese was an eggy casserole that could be cut in sections if it were cold.

                              1. re: danna

                                I never heard of eggs in Mac & Cheese until I moved to Georgia. I just can't get used to it. I grew up on the white sauce and Cheddar kind. No eggs, no Velveeta.

                                1. re: jmcarthur8

                                  We do white sauce too and although the original recipe calls for cheddar my mother has always used Land o Lakes white American cheese cut at the deli counter.

                        2. re: paulj

                          It is ubiquitous in the Central PA area. Amish custard style, everywhere from weddings to Thanksgiving etc.

                          Not really a favorite of mine but I'm marrying into it not born into it.

                      3. re: jmcarthur8

                        all of my family is from GA, and as previously mentioned, mac and cheese was never even a consideration.

                        1. re: JenJeninCT

                          Yes, it really does seem to be a regional and/ or cultural tradition, doesn't it?

                          1. re: jmcarthur8

                            Southern-oriented and most definitely cultural.

                  2. I think oyster dressing is and has been for many years , more prevalent in the south.

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: robt5265

                      I have never figured out (nor has anyone in my family) how my Northern Yankee family came to have oyster dressing as a family tradition.

                      It wasn't until my early 20s that I found out that it's common -- just not where I grew up.

                      1. re: robt5265

                        I, a Texan, had never heard of oyster dressing until my Ohioan uncle by marriage unhappily introduced it to me. Hardly dispositive, but there ya' go.

                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                          Hey, PK, you live in a f---ing desert. When you have a chance for oysters, follow Janis' advice, and get it while you can, my friend.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            Ian or Joplin?

                            By the by, I'm wondering if anybody has thought to make dressing with mountain oysters? Not that I'd cotton to that any more than if it was made with Blue Points, mind you.

                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                              Never crossed my mind. Maybe with a valley turkey? Bull testicles are $10/ lb in my latin market, so somebody likes them.

                              1. re: Veggo

                                Hey, they are still the #2 selling dish at The Fort, in Morrison, CO.


                                BTW - you can have my order.

                              2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                In Texas, I would say Joplin...

                                I would anticipate that oyster dressing might be bigger from Beaumont to McAllen, but am just guessing there.

                                We had it on the MS Gulf Coast, and my wife had it in New Orleans, but somehow, I would say that Mississippians in, say Meridian, might not have - straight cornbread would be my guess.

                                However, I stand to be corrected, if someone from Lauderdale County corrects me.


                            2. re: Perilagu Khan

                              My parents/grandparents (all from Ohio) also do oyster dressing - it always seemed weird to me, given that Ohio is about as landlocked as it gets, but there you go.

                              1. re: biondanonima

                                I understand the Lake Erie Wellfleets are stupendous.

                                1. re: biondanonima

                                  That does surprise me, but then I have never lived in Ohio.

                                  Thanks for educating me - maybe my speculation about Oyster Dressing not making it beyond the MS Gulf Coast to Meridian, MS, is all wet?


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    Northern Indiana- almost to the Michigan state line....I don't know about all wet, but a little soggy, perhaps. ;)

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Well, remember the days when Wiedmann's in Meridian was on teh list of 100 best restaurants in America...seafood made it there on the train and they had oysters. It was the last outpost of good food travelling north from New Orleans until one reached Baltimore or the environs. So I'm guessing there might have been oyster dressing. Unfortunately the relative who lived there is long dead. (Jackson, MS had it in limited amounts I think).

                                      1. re: hazelhurst

                                        While we did dine there often (my father and two uncles were in the historic WWII photographs on the walls), I cannot recall any "Holiday meal," there. The last visit was fairly early AM, and the Hot Cakes were excellent, as always. Have not dined there in too many years. [Somewhere, my wife still has one of their peanut butter jars.]


                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          I never had a Holiday Meal there either but I brought it up to sugests oysters could have been around so long as they were on teh RR line. people in Jackson used to get them in those llittle kind of Chinese Food takeout things with wire handles (see Eudora Welty's introduction to "The Jackson Cookbook") Weidmann's has been open-and-closed a few times overe the last several years. Shorty's family sold it after he died and teh New People "renovated." I went in once on the way back from New York and it broke my heart. Nothing of teh old place remains. It was probably about to fall in anyway though. It was, for years, the last decent place to eat driving from Lousiana to the Northeast before you crossed the vast desert wasteland of Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia. My father stuck to fried chicken and milk in those territories on teh theory that this could be relied on (and it usually could be).

                              2. PK............
                                there are branches of our family that settled in the south in the early 1860s and NYC about 5 years later. The Bagelman family doesn't do ham, and serves no dairy ingredients with a meat (Turkey) meal.
                                The one consistent difference I seen in more than 50 years of Thanksgivings I remember:
                                Biscuits in the south, Dinner rolls in the north.
                                Same challah stuffing, root vegetables, gravy and desserts, with slight varieties based on the hosts' preferences.

                                34 Replies
                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  Biscuits at Thanksgiving dinner?? Horrors!!! No, no, no, said the Texan. (My grandmother was from Georgia, so we have deeper "Southern" roots as well.)

                                  But yes, we're also alllll about cornbread dressing (which isn't just cornbread, it's also a mix of whatever breads or biscuits or even occasionally a sleeve of crackers crushed in the mix), which is to me the defining difference.

                                  My grandmother would be sad, however, that without her we're losing the "salads" tradition - she would've had at least two fruit salads of some sort on the table, generally ambrosia and her "coke salad" which was a cherry, coke, jello salad.

                                  1. re: shanagain

                                    Those jello salads were a staple in the 1960's and even into the 1980's. I'm afraid America's food revolution may consign them to the scrap heap which is too bad. they are awful but they are, well, American. Don't forget the terrible little marshmellows.

                                    1. re: hazelhurst

                                      There's a scene in the Thanksgiving flick, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" where those terrible little marshmallows are mentioned. Gobble, gobble.

                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                        Never seen it but on that comment I'll go out and have a look. I have a great fondness for cookbooks that have recipes with canned ingredients. The Jackson, Mississippi Symphony cookbook has tons of those gems. One of them has ten ingredients, all canned. It, too, has a Coca-Cola salad.

                                        I think I'll have a Swanson Frozen TV Dinner for lunch...maybe the Salisbury Steak with Gravy, cardboard beans and library paste apple cobbler. I cannot hazard a guess as to what the mashed potates are made of....

                                        1. re: hazelhurst

                                          By all means do. It's the funniest movie ever made. Dam' poignant, too.

                                          Requiescat in pacem, John Candy.

                                          PS--The Khantessa collects those retro cookbook-pamphlets that were produced by food manufacturers, the producers of cooking implements and local societies/churches. They are filled with the canned ingredient recipes you love.

                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                            Yup..great crap. I have a big plastic file box from Good Housekeeping with 1,000 recipe cards, filed by meat,fish, appetiazers, soups etc. Big glossy things with pictures from the test kitchen of, for example, the ONE baked chicken of 500 that turned out pretty. A friend's grandmother had this gem and he gave it to me when she died. Perfectly awful. I love it. The casseroles should be in the American Museumof Natural History. And mguess what? A Super Bowl parties I'll make something from it and whatever it is vanishes before the Scottish smoked salmon.

                                            1. re: hazelhurst

                                              I believe it. There's something in those mid-century monstrosities that is elemental and has not yet been extinguished. For at least a few more decades, they will be well remembered and well loved.

                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                Your're right...I like to think I know my way around good food and spirits but there is something about the chicken casserole with the proverbial mushroom soup that calls to me (it is citified by the addition of sherry). Or the Wolf Trap Cookbook with the cold soup involving four or five Campbells prodcuts. I consider myself lucky that I do not have a "Princess & the Pea" type of palate: how miserable would life be then!

                                            2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                              Here: http://www.lileks.com/institute/galle...

                                              It's an online collection of "regreattable food" -- it's amazing that the manufacturers thought someone would eat that stuff....and what's worse it that somebody probably did.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                That's quite a collection, alright, although I can do without the snide, dismissive and oh so superior manner of its author.

                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                  He's a columnist from our local newspaper (Twin Cities) and not really worth reading. His only claim to fame is that he's had an internet blog since before they were called blogs. He started it around '96 or '97.

                                          2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                            (Sheepishly says..) I like the little marshmallows! In jello with walnuts and fruit.
                                            Now you're disillusioned. Oh, dear.

                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                              One of my family's favorite movies. That scene is classic.

                                              1. re: melpy

                                                Watching it on Thanksgiving is one of our most cherished traditions. The movie never gets old. Never fails to provoke guffaws.

                                            2. re: hazelhurst

                                              I detest marshmallows in any way shape or form but I do love the jello salads for the holidays and funerals.

                                              My grandmother and mom made one from at least the early sixties that had black cherry jello, cream cheese and pecans. One aunt put diced celery in her version which was kind of sketchy but not that bad now that I think of it.

                                              1. re: kengk

                                                My mother had a Jello recipe that we still make for holiday dinners. It has orange jello, canned mandarin oranges, orange sherbet and whipped cream. The original recipe called for Cool Whip, but I like it with the real stuff better.

                                                A couple of years ago, Andrew Zimmern took his show to a Lutheran church supper that featured lutefisk and the typical potluck dishes at such places in Minnesota. One woman brought a jello salad that had crushed pineapple, cream cheese and Cool Whip. Zimmern playfully told the woman that it was possibly the worst thing he's ever eaten on all of his TV shows.

                                                1. re: John E.

                                                  I would so make that. Do you know what flavor of Jello she used?


                                                  1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                    Here is the recipe... Enjoy.

                                                    Orange Sherbet Salad

                                                    2 packages orange Jello
                                                    1 cup boiling water (use juice from mandarin oranges)
                                                    1 pint orange sherbet
                                                    2 cans (11 ounces) mandarin oranges, drained
                                                    (save the juice and use it to dissolve the gelatin)
                                                    1 cup heavy cream, whipped (not sweetened)
                                                    (or use an 8 ounce tub of cool whip)

                                                    Dissolve the gelatin in the juice/water. Add the sherbet and mix well. When partially set, add the oranges and fold in the whipped cream/cool whip. Chill for several hours before serving.

                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                      My husband thanks you! A couple of questions:

                                                      Do I boil the juice? Are the pkgs of jello the small ones? Will the sherbet be liquified?


                                                2. re: kengk

                                                  My mom's version: Lemon jello with shredded carrots and crushed pineapple. With sweetened mayonnaise topping for special occasions. Ugh.

                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                    That sounds disgusting.

                                                    My sister has a couple of really good congealed salads she brings out at holidays - one is blackberry and the other is apricot. And they're good. I wouldn't want them any more often though.

                                                    1. re: Leepa

                                                      I am a huge fan of Jell-o salads, at least the sweet ones -- but mayonnaise is The Line That Must Not Be Crossed.

                                                      We have good cranberry Jell-o salad traditions on both sides of the family. The paternal salad is an unusual recipe that calls for ground whole cranberries, chopped nuts, celery, and an entire ground orange. Pulp, rind, and zest, all together. Somehow it works.

                                                      On my mother's side, the traditional recipe involved sour cream, mandarine oranges, walnuts, and celery, and either cranberries or cranberry sauce. I cannot for the life of me track down the recipe, which makes me very sad.

                                                      My stepmother's family has a Jello-recipe that involves pretzels; that has to be the strangest one. Not a molded salad, though.

                                                      1. re: dtremit

                                                        or even worse, congealed salads with Miracle Whip. Bleh.

                                                        1. re: dtremit

                                                          Is it that strawberry-pretzel salad? Someone tried to feed me that once...

                                                          1. re: dtremit

                                                            Was the pretzel salad from the North, or the South?

                                                            That is a new one to me, and it might take some major convincing to get me to eat it... but until I taste it, I will withhold final comments.


                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                              I believe it was a promotional recipe from Jell-O.

                                                              IIRC, it was oddly tasty -- but it's been a long time since I last had it -- and frankly have no desire to run out and make it, either.

                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                If ya'll are talking about the one with the pretzel crust, it is pretty tasty to me. I like salty and sweet together.

                                                                The crust is made similar to a graham cracker crust only with broken up pretzels.

                                                3. re: bagelman01

                                                  For Thanksgiving, it has always been rolls for my families - Deep South.

                                                  While biscuits ARE a staple, rolls replace them on the Thanksgiving table.


                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    Biscuits in the morning, rolls for dinner.

                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                      I agree with that. We did Thanksgiving at lunchtime while my grandmother was alive, so she served both rolls and biscuits. (she was awesome)

                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                        That was how it was in my Deep South family, and also in my wife's New Orleans family.

                                                        I also do not recall any deviation from that general menu, even with other family members in different states. Does not mean that it was not common with them, but just that I did not ever recall observing it.


                                                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                        in the southern side of our family, if there's gravy, then biscuits are served. Thnksgiving hot dinner at 1PM, Turkey, gravy, biscuits. Supper at 7Pm leftover sliced turkey for sandwiches on rolls.

                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                          Same here. Biscuits are everyday food, and rolls are for special occasions. Thanksgiving is pretty special, so we have rolls.

                                                      3. I think you're likely to find more similarities than differences.

                                                        I grew up in the North and spent most of my adult life in the South -- it was bread dressing (with oysters, which is a southern tradition, but we didn't know that at the time), pumpkin and pecan pie -- and frequently a green-tomato pie with the last of the tomatoes, and chicken, because my great-grandmother and grandmother didn't like turkey. (Turkey came after we moved to the South.) Ham is for Christmas.

                                                        I'll agree with you that sweet potato pie is more common in the south.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          That green tomato pie sounds yummy sunshine. This year I used the last of the green tomatoes in a curry. They had been kissed by a bit of frost. They have a unique taste which gives a sense of time and place.

                                                          1. re: givemecarbs

                                                            it was -- and one of these days I have to make one, should I find enough green tomatoes. I unfortunately didn't get my hands on the recipe before my grandmother and great-grandmother passed, but it had raisins and a sort of sweet/sour tang very similar to modern (meatless) mincemeat.

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              Could you deconstruct a green tomato mincemeat recipe and get close to your remembered taste?

                                                              1. re: sr44

                                                                probably -- but we eat very few baked goods at our house, and I'm the only one who like this particular one, so it seems like a waste to make a whole pie to only eat 1-2 pieces.

                                                            2. re: givemecarbs

                                                              That was a new one for me, and I thought that I had a good handle on the cuisine of the Deep South - learn something new every day.


                                                          2. I think you'll find that the main differences are variations on the same things, w/ maybe the addition of items like mac/cheese in the South; or rice and gravy as a side. Differences in base ingredients, e.g oysters in stuffing, which bread is used and whether ham is a commonly-served meat in addition to the bird are more regionally-oriented. Just IMHO. No need to start a new "war between factions."

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  Cream, butter, crumbled Saltines enhance the oysters. Seriously good.

                                                              1. My father did not like turkey(he said all that stuffing and jelly and so forth were to make up for the lack of flavor). besides, he go get a wine to go with standing rib roast so we had that and spinach madeline from River Road Cooking. In my teen years I went to massachusettts Thanksgivings and they always had a turkey and a ham.

                                                                1. Of my 60 Thanksgivings, I have spent about 20 north of the Mason-Dixon, 20 south of it, and 20 abroad. A few observations: Cornbread stuffing with its southern origins is increasingly popular in the north. Oysters in stuffing are a matter of choice, not geography. Northerners are bigger on root vegetables - more turnips and rutabegas. Sweet potato dishes are increasingly popular in the north. Chestnuts in dressing are more popular in the north. No one in the north serves rice or mac and cheese at Thanksgiving. Northern Italian-Americans cook a turkey to demonstrate they are second generation Americans, then proceed with an Italian feast. More pecan pie in the south, pumpkin north.
                                                                  Abroad, dealers' choice as it's not a holiday. Boar in Bavaria, barramundi in Australia, tuna in Costa Rica, stone crabs in Belize, feijoida in Brazil, ropa vieja in Cuba, arroz con pollo in Canaima, Venezuela, chicken in St. Maartin, lobster in Turks & Caicos, too many to list.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                    Some Chinese-American families serve rice instead of potatoes along with the traditional turkey dinner. Before it became prohibitively expensive, my Uncle Don used to make sharks fin soup for holiday dinners.

                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                      Great post Veggo. I was hoping someone would mention the rutabagas. I always mash mine with a bit of the mashed potatoes to make them a bit more mild tasting, but to me they go perfect with the rich gravy and filling.
                                                                      You are so right about the Italian feast. Turkey is just one of many options!

                                                                    2. I think my New England family had the same holiday meal both Thanksgiving and Christmas for over a hundred years. There would be a turkey stuffed with a fairly plain bread stuffing (onions, celery, and Bell's seasoning), mashed potatoes and gravy, mashed Eastham turnip, mashed butternut squash and creamed onions. Cranberry sauce, of course, and not from a can. Everything was well cooked and seasoned, but very plain. The evening meal of leftovers featured a large Boston lettuce salad because my great grandfather had helped someone trying to grow lettuce in glass houses during the winter and received heads of lettuce in thanks.

                                                                      13 Replies
                                                                      1. re: sr44

                                                                        With a relish tray to start, and pumpkin and mince pies for dessert.

                                                                        1. re: sr44

                                                                          I was born and raised in California and my mother was raised in Chicago, so I'm not sure where my family Thanksgiving traditions came from, but they sound a lot like that.

                                                                          --Creamed onions, definitely.
                                                                          --We've transitioned from bread stuffing to stuffing that's two-thirds bread and one-third cornbread.
                                                                          --No mashed potatoes, because my mother is not big on potatoes.
                                                                          --Some kind of root vegetable and/or some kind of orange vegetable (pumpkin, squash, sweet potato).
                                                                          --Raw orange-cranberry sauce (in addition to the jelly stuff out of the can). When I was a kid I loved feeding the cranberries into the grinder

                                                                          My great-grandfather was a baker, so my grandmother always brought dinner rolls and pies (pumpkin and mince).

                                                                          The idea of mac and cheese is just bizarre to me. I never heard of such a thing until that Pat Robertson "is that a black thing?" story last year.

                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                            I don't follow this menu slavishly now that I've got the reins in my hands, but change 1 or 2 things every time.

                                                                            We had Tgiving at a friend's a few years ago, and the look on my nephew's face when he realized there was rice instead of mashed potatoes was a sight to behold.

                                                                            1. re: sr44

                                                                              I can't imagine! We don't usually do another starch in addition to stuffing (and maybe rolls or biscuits). Root vegetables and/or squash only.

                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                I can only imagine that's what was available in November and December. The Boston lettuce salad is a startling addition to the leftovers. Way back in the 19th century, lettuce would have been raised in glass houses, helped by the addition of a lot of fresh manure deep under the growing medium to provide heat as it decomposed.

                                                                                And I add a bit of roasted and ground Szechuan pepper to the creamed onions.

                                                                              2. re: sr44

                                                                                The first time I heard of rice as a meat side dish like that was when my best friend said her family alway made roast beef and rice. She claims because her family doesn't eat potatoes besides fries but her mom is from Alabama so that might have something to do with it.

                                                                              3. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                "The idea of mac and cheese is just bizarre to me. I never heard of such a thing until that Pat Robertson "is that a black thing?" story last year."

                                                                                Haha! This is a big joke at my house- my DH is back, and I am white, so "it's a black thing" or "It's a caucasian thing" is a common joking refrain. My DH has a whole list of what he calls "caucasian food"- with artichokes at the top. LOL

                                                                                      1. re: JenJeninCT

                                                                                        A certain AC/DC tune is pounding in my head...

                                                                                1. re: sr44

                                                                                  sr44, this sounds like my Thanksgivings (NYC area). We also have stuffed mushrooms, mashed sweet potatoes rather than mashed butternut squash, and a broccoli casserole that my mom started making years ago and that everyone likes. We have cranberry sauce both from a can and homemade. Dessert usually includes pumpkin pie, mince pie (only my grandfather and uncle eat it), and something apple-related. Usually a pie, this year a cake.

                                                                                  We actually have had mac & cheese in the past at holidays, my aunt makes a great recipe using Cracker Barrel white cheddar and onions. But I normally wouldn't think of other people having at their Thanksgivings.

                                                                                2. In My South mashed potatoes are Northern. ~~ Rarely do I see them in homes here ~~ Exceptions are out there I suppose. Especially in Thanksgiving buffets type establishments (Casinos) where they are trying to appeal to a very wide audience.

                                                                                  The Mason and Dixon Line was a border dispute primarily between the British Colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland before1763, and prior to the American Revolutionary War! Not a delineation of North and South.

                                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                    Where would you draw the North-South line? M-D is the only conventional one. Most of America west of the Mississippi was not yet relevant to the division, and doesn't experience the lingering cultural divide, which I indicate is homogenizing.

                                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                                      The Missouri Compromise of 1850.......Parallel 36* 30' North.
                                                                                      Exception: Virginia at the time

                                                                                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                        So, are Maryland crab cakes a Northern or Southern delicacy?...:)

                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                          Crab cakes are traditionally associated with the State of Maryland ~~ But are popular all along the eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast regions making them a universally popular delicacy. ;).

                                                                                          1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                            A very politic reply...you have my vote....:)

                                                                                        2. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                          Maryland is Janus-like: neither fully Northern nor fully Southern. Historically, it was more the latter than the former, and its food traditions reflect that.

                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                            Having lived in Central MD I woul say there are a few things that can be considered Southern but really doesn't have a southern vibe at all. I would say the African Americans in MD lean more towards a Southern tradition but considering there are also a lot of Jewish folk and many Catholics, there are a lot of German and Irish traditions too. As a native of CT my family thought it was a little Southern but I will say that Central PA gives me more if a southern vibe than MD. No wonder so many people from PA move to NC.

                                                                                            1. re: melpy

                                                                                              That's why PA is described as: Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west and Alabama in between.

                                                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                                                If I'm not mistaken, many of the migration paths into the non-Atlantic South went right through the middle of Pennsylvania -- so there's logic to that. Talking about well before the Civil War, though.

                                                                                        3. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                          Politics changes rapidly; culture is more obdurate. Hence, North Carolina is no longer a conservative state but its culture remains resolutely southern.

                                                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                            The culture does lag behind...but soon catches up.

                                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                I know....I feel sorry for Virginia....:))

                                                                                        4. My family has been in Eastern NC since the mid-1600's, and only expanded beyond state borders in the 1970's (and even then, only to VA). Our Southern Thanksgiving table includes turkey and ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing made with yeast bread (sometimes oysters, never cornbread), green beans and collards cooked with salt pork, and roasted sweet potatoes. When my grandmother was still around, the meal also included mashed rutabaga and cornmeal dumplings. Desserts include pumpkin pie and pecan pie, sometimes seven layer cake. I prefer sweet potato pie, but I'm the only one.

                                                                                          I think the regional differences in holiday foods are far more granular than North vs. South. Local crops are a major factor, as well as differences/similarities in immigration and settlement over the years. For example, potatoes and sweet potatoes are major crops where I grew up, and feature prominently in our menus. Rice is more popular in traditional rice growing regions.

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                            Oh wow, how could I forget the requisite green beans and collards with salt pork and/or hamhocks and roasted sweet potatoes - always on the table as well!

                                                                                            1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                              Do you have a recipe for cornmeal dumplings? I would very much appreciate it!

                                                                                              1. re: drloripalooza

                                                                                                There isn't much of a recipe... They are made when cooking long cooked greens or green beans. During the last 10-15 minutes of cooking time, mix some of the pot liquor with corn meal. I usually start with a cup of corn meal and add about 1/4 cup of liquid to start. Mix together, adding liquid as needed until you have a soft dough. Shape the dough into patties 1/2 inch thick and about 3 inches in diameter. Make sure the greens/beans are just barely simmering, anything more will make the dumplings fall apart. Gently place the dumpling patties in the pot with the greens/beans, and cook for 10 minutes.

                                                                                            2. Well according to this thread we are from the South. When my grandmother cooked Thanksgiving (NoVa born and raised) it was turkey, ham, dressing (not cornmeal), collards, green beans (ham hock not casserole), mac & cheese, oyster casserole (oysters, cream, saltines?), deviled eggs, creamed onions, potatoe salad, sweet potatoe casserole (w/marshmallows) and biscuits. Always mincemeat pie (for my grandpa), pecan (for my dad), and sweet potatoe pie for dessert. I miss those meals.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: viperlush

                                                                                                I suspect mincemeat pie is on the endangered list - fond memories here, too.

                                                                                                1. I come from a very Southern family (Tennessee, Virginia, NC, all ended up in Florida). Here's the typical menu:
                                                                                                  Relish tray: olives, pickles, celery
                                                                                                  Smoked turkey or roasted turkey, at least 20 lbs.
                                                                                                  No ham (Christmas only)
                                                                                                  Boiled to death green beans with ham hock and quartered potatoes
                                                                                                  (No mashed potatoes)
                                                                                                  Oyster bread dressing
                                                                                                  Cornbread dressing
                                                                                                  Skillet cornbread, no flour, no sugar
                                                                                                  Giblet gravy
                                                                                                  Sweet Potato Casserole with brown sugar and marshmallows on top
                                                                                                  Creamed Onions
                                                                                                  Eggplant Souffle (Scalloped Eggplant)
                                                                                                  Scalloped Potatoes
                                                                                                  Cooked Cranberry Relish
                                                                                                  Mincemeat Pie
                                                                                                  Pecan Pie
                                                                                                  Pumpkin Pie

                                                                                                  We never had sweet potato pie.
                                                                                                  And Yankees have Brussels Sprouts!

                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: drloripalooza

                                                                                                    Boiled to death green beans are a southern delicacy! It's the only vegetable that I'll intentionally overcook. And add a bit of bacon grease for flavor. And intentionally make twice as much as needed for many days of leftovers. Love me some overcooked, dead-as-doornails-green beans.

                                                                                                    1. re: pine time

                                                                                                      Me, too -- I can't always find the big fat beans that you have to have to stew the daylights out of them, but they're a favorite at our house, too. I start by rendering down a package of bacon (chopped into 1" pieces) and sauteeing an onion in the fat until it's brown -- then I add the beans and the water and let it go for several hours.

                                                                                                    2. re: drloripalooza

                                                                                                      I forgot about the relish tray! Always an assortment of pickles, plus olives that no one touched. Pickles could be homemade or store bought (always Mt. Olive brand, because that is the local brand).

                                                                                                      1. re: drloripalooza

                                                                                                        Almost the same here. My family has been in TN since before it was a state.

                                                                                                        Turkey only, no ham at Thanksgiving
                                                                                                        Usually no green beans but if we did they'd be simmered (not boiled) for a while
                                                                                                        No mashed potatoes (what's up with this?)
                                                                                                        No Oyster stuffing
                                                                                                        Cornbread dressing
                                                                                                        My mom's homemade bread or rolls made from the dough
                                                                                                        Giblet gravy - no boiled eggs
                                                                                                        Sweet Potato casserole
                                                                                                        Corn souffle
                                                                                                        Broccoli casserole
                                                                                                        Usually some sort of baked rice dish
                                                                                                        Cooked cranberry sauce
                                                                                                        Relish tray (celery with pimento cheese stuffing, olives, tiny tomatoes, etc.)
                                                                                                        Pumpkin chiffon pie

                                                                                                        I can't wait for the equivalent Christmas thread!

                                                                                                        1. re: Leepa

                                                                                                          and the relish tray served on a cut-glass dish that's pulled out only for the holidays. ;)

                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                            Yes! Mom's was divided into 3 sections, and she even had a rule about which item went into each section!

                                                                                                            1. re: pine time

                                                                                                              I still have that dish . . . and it will be dutifully put to use at Christmas ;)

                                                                                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                              Mom's is a five section one that fits into a lazy susan. A bowl section in the center and four sections that fit around the bowl. It's quite festive! And it spins!

                                                                                                        2. In NY, but parents are immigrants, Mother is English/Welsh.
                                                                                                          Eggnog (served at T-day, X-mas, and New Years) and red and white wines.
                                                                                                          Assorted Cheese (brie, parmesan, soft and hard blue, etc.) and crackers, pickles, and pickled onions
                                                                                                          Boiled brussel sprouts in butter
                                                                                                          Oven roasted potatoes cooked crispy golden brown at high heat in turkey fat
                                                                                                          Green beans
                                                                                                          Homemade raw cranberry relish with oranges and lemons all ground up, plus sugar (I never liked it)
                                                                                                          Canned whole cranberry sauce
                                                                                                          Pumpkin and apple pie
                                                                                                          Roast turkey with gravy
                                                                                                          Sausage, corn bread, onion, celery, sage, poultry seasoning stuffing. Very meaty, tastes amazing. The best part of the meal, and great as cold leftovers.
                                                                                                          Baked sweet potato, sometimes whole, sometimes mashed, never topped with marshmallow.

                                                                                                          As I started to help cook as a teen I would add homemade cooked cranberry sauce, different each year. Usually add apples or pears, maybe port wine or stewed dried fruit and other tasty things.
                                                                                                          Mashed potatoes
                                                                                                          I would make huge batches of gravy ahead of time from roasted turkey wings and thighs.
                                                                                                          I would try a new veggie dish or two. Things like creamed pearl onions, roasted root vegetable soup, assorted recipes from Food & Wine magazine holiday issue..

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                                                                            JMF, you have a likeable style! And I would guess a "normal" family. Go for it!

                                                                                                            1. re: JMF

                                                                                                              Oh HELL yes. I love everything about this meal. Tell me, what time do we eat?

                                                                                                            2. In Northwest Indiana, up near Chicago, many of our neighbors served kielbasa and cabbage with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, along with the usual line-up. One of my neighbors of Polish descent (most everyone in our town was of Polish descent) always made blood soup at Christmas. I tried it once. Never again.

                                                                                                              The only families who had macaroni and cheese were the ones with Southern relatives.

                                                                                                              Bread stuffing or prune and apple stuffing were pretty traditional there. I don't recall anyone I know making oyster stuffing. I did once, but I really didn't like it much. It just wasn't Mother's stuffing!

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: jmcarthur8

                                                                                                                My Swedish aunt by marriage always served potato sausage and lutefisk along with the turkey and fixin's. I believe she was from Minnesota.

                                                                                                                1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                                                  She was a month early. Potato sausage and lutefisk are Christmas Eve fare, at least among my Minnesota relatives.

                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                    Actually, I was a month early. We only went there at Christmas. I think we had it both on Day and Eve over the years.

                                                                                                              2. This thread has been truly enlightening.

                                                                                                                I never realized the great continental divide between Southern and Northern Thanksgiving Cooking.

                                                                                                                Where was this part in the Lincoln movie???

                                                                                                                Is there a similar difference between Thanksgiving foods between Eastern seaboard and the West Coast?

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. No Southerner has mentioned greens eg collard or kale. Not a thanksgiving thing?

                                                                                                                  18 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                    I mentioned it above. No holiday meals was complete without collards.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                      Collard greens...always on our table! I think I might have mentioned it above somewhere but always collard greens with hamhocks.

                                                                                                                      1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                        Collards, black eyed peas, skillet cornbread, and slaw are the default sides at our Southern family functions and holidays.

                                                                                                                        They're usually provided by whichever family member is having the dinner at their house, unless you in particular are asked to bring them.

                                                                                                                        Honestly, I don't think anyone really gives them a second thought, unless they weren't made. And usually someone always brings some.

                                                                                                                        1. re: deet13

                                                                                                                          We always have black eyed peas on New Year's Day.

                                                                                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                            When I lived in East Texas, the Lufkin Daily News left a complimentary can of black eyed peas with the morning paper on the porch of subscribers on New Years' Day.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                              The Daily News has always been a good newspeaper.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                Really? That's awesome! And where have you beeeeeeeen?

                                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                  It is in these parts ~~ High Crimes & Misdemeanors!!!! 30 Days in Jail and a $1000 fine!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                                                                    Or at least a very liberal application of warm pine tar and a sack full of soft downy feathers...

                                                                                                                                2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                  It's my favorite part of New Year's!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                    AFAIK, Hopping John on New Years was always more of a regional thing from South Carolina/NE Georgia than down here in Florida.

                                                                                                                                    But we always made it (along with dirty rice) for our gatherings.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: deet13

                                                                                                                                      and Florida was where I was taught the rule -- not Hopping John, but black-eyed peas with a ham hock and greens, eaten as the first food after the stroke of midnight. The hugs and kisses and "Happy New Year" goes round, then the food comes out. Black-eyed peas carry luck, the greens signify money, and since I've only had one cup of coffee so far, I can't remember the significance of the ham hock, but it means something, too.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                        Ahh, now that shook loose a memory.

                                                                                                                                        I recall my grandma saying something about eating greens for money during the holidays, and then discounting it as "superstitious rubbish" like she did with all the old folk things.

                                                                                                                                        I'll have to ask my mother, or maybe one of my aunts, and see if they remember anything about it.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                          I believe the pork is for prosperity - may we all be so wealthy that we are fat as pigs.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                                                            it's something like that -- the fat of the land, having food on the table...I'm wide-awake and still can't remember.

                                                                                                                                            This has some interesting customs: http://www.epicurious.com/articlesgui...

                                                                                                                                            While I was toodling around looking for that, I also saw another mention that I'd forgotten -- that you "eat poor" on New Year's to ensure you "eat rich" the rest of the year.

                                                                                                                                            I don't put much stock in these...but they're fun.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                    Definitely a Thanksgiving thing, and mentioned in several posts above. In my family, they show up at every special meal when in season.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                      Not a thanksgiving thing for my SC family. Greens were by no means a staple in either grandmother's kitchen although they were done occasionally.

                                                                                                                                    2. I'm from Minnesota and the only food item you mentioned that we did not have is corn bread dressing. The reason cornbread is more prevalent in the south is because while corn grows readily in the south, hard winter wheat does not. So years ago ground corn was more widely used than was wheat flour.

                                                                                                                                      1. Definitely a greater emphasis on sweet potatoes down here than in Massachusetts. Pecan pie also shows up more often.

                                                                                                                                        That being said, my dad's side used serve sill (pickled herring), sauerkraut, and potato sauages at all holidays. Makes me think most carry a few of their cultural food traditions wherever they go.

                                                                                                                                        1. I have observed similar differences, but then, being a product of the Deep South, have to take others' word for what might be served in the North.

                                                                                                                                          Now, for us, pumpkin pie IS part of the spread too, but maybe that is just us? Though my wife was Miss Sweet Potato, long ago, we do not do a pie, though there are often other sweet potato dishes (same for yams too).

                                                                                                                                          Ham does show up, though for us, turkey IS still king.

                                                                                                                                          Dressings do vary for us. My wife's family is big on a oyster bread stuffing, but they are from New Orleans - while part of the Deep South, the cuisine is much more international, than true "Southern."

                                                                                                                                          Maybe our experiences are not that "typical," and perhaps exhibit some purely regional differences.

                                                                                                                                          Now, the "hot-cross buns" ARE part of our spread. What bread differences exist?


                                                                                                                                          16 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                            One might be that in some parts of the country (that I have yet to nail down geographically) people feel the need to call rolls "bread rolls". From the department of redundancy department.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                              "Bread rolls" is very British, and is the common term throughout the Commonwealth.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                Wow,,,,interesting how you find the odd Britishism sprinkled about the US. Makes me want to take another linguistics class!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                      It's a Britich expression and I was trying to be funny. It apparently did not land. Sorry about that.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                        Bullocks is a funny and appreciated britspeak. I am slow tonight!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                          but more commonly, "bollocks", which is different.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                            Apparently I got the animal confused with his departed parts. ; )

                                                                                                                                              2. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                There are different kinds of rolls, even when speaking about food, the yeast bread variety is most common.

                                                                                                                                                From a dictionary:
                                                                                                                                                "c : any of various food preparations rolled up for cooking or serving <cabbage rolls>; especially : a small piece of baked yeast dough"

                                                                                                                                                Any redundancy is the result of usage, not an inherent part of the definition.


                                                                                                                                              3. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                "What bread differences exist?"

                                                                                                                                                My mother took the position that the cornbread dressing rendered additional bread unnecessary.

                                                                                                                                                I took strong exception to this position and would persuade her to serve at least some kind of "store" rolls.

                                                                                                                                                I don't recollect any of the elders in my family making yeast bread for any occasion. It was biscuits, cornbread or store bread.

                                                                                                                                                I remember fondly the biscuits my grandmother made when she still prepared holiday meals. Two buttery crusts, with the scantest of middles, the diameter and thickness of two Ritz crackers stacked one on the other.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: kengk

                                                                                                                                                  Although my mother almosr never made bread, she akways made rolls for holiday meals. I also remember her once making a hamburger bun in a 9" cake pan for my older brother's 12th birthday. Instead of a cake, he asked for a giant hamburger. Apparently, he was way ahead of the curve with that one.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                  We have rolls at Thanksgiving and Christmas (homemade yeast or Sister Schubert in a pinch), but the rest of the year we nearly always have cornbread as our bread. Yet I can't imagine having cornbread at Thanksgiving. Strange. Maybe it seems too ordinary?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: stargazer77

                                                                                                                                                    If you have cornbread the rest of the year, how do you make a sandwich?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                      ... I meant that when we have bread as a side dish with dinner, like in a bread basket at the table, 90% of the time it is cornbread. Of course we have bread in the house for sandwiches, toast, french toast, etc.

                                                                                                                                                3. Southern family here- relish tray, deviled eggs, potato salad, all-cornbread dressing (not called stuffing!), green beans and turnip greens with ham hock, turkey and ham, various casseroles with veg, cream of x soup, and breadcrumb/cracker topping, cranberry sauce (not canned), rolls, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie. Sometimes sweet potato casserole but with praline topping, never marshmallows (yuck).

                                                                                                                                                  1. Funny reading some of the comments! My family (Southern) had weird rules for the holidays and what must be on the table. Most of them had to do with NY day where ham, greens, mac and cheese, black eyed peas and rice with lots of pepper sauce is consumed. Therefore no ham at either Christmas or Thanksgiving. If someone came with a ham it would be put in the freezer for later. Period. Weirdos.

                                                                                                                                                    Pecan pie every holiday but only because my grands live in a pecan orchard. And it is pronounced PEEcun, not peCAWN. I hate pecan pie.

                                                                                                                                                    Turkey Thanksgiving and prime rib for Christmas. Varying from that causes something cataclysmic like polar shift. I think that may be just my clan of wackjobs though. Also - green beans and red potatoes cooked to DEATH every holiday. YUM!

                                                                                                                                                    Also Pralines at thanksgiving. Naturally... pecans. I miss mawmaw.

                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                                                      Love this. Weirdo hams and Polar shifts. Guffaw.
                                                                                                                                                      You wouldn't happen to have mamaw's Praline recipe? I make something similar, but the texture's a bit different, and you cut it into cubes, like caramels. The candy I make is like a cross between fudge and pralines. Yum.