Thursday, November 25, 2010

Geography of Common Thanksgiving Foods

Happy Thanksgiving!  Today Americans will be gathered with family or friends or will be marking the day alone.  However, no matter what the social scene, there are certain foods common throughout the United States that will be eaten today.  The geography of the primary Thanksgiving foods shows that the meal is primarily American but influences from the rest of the Western Hemisphere and Europe cannot be ignored.

Turkey:  Wild Turkeys are native throughout much of the eastern United States and were hunted by Indians long before the first Puritan-American Indian Thanksgiving.  Turkeys were first domesticated by Inidans in Central America.  Turkeys are now a staple animal of American agriculture though the wild turkey is still hunted during hunting season.

Corn:  Corn is the longest lasting accomplishment of American Indians.  The crop was engineered by Indians in present-day Mexico off the natural grass Teosinte.  Between A.D. 500 and 1500 the crop spread across the Western Hemisphere as agricultural Indians realized how nutritious the plant was.  Today corn is grown all over the world and is responsible for being the life supporting crop for millions.


Mashed Potatoes:  The potato was not used at the first Thanksgiving.  The crop actually comes from the Andes Mountains of Peru and Chile.  It was brought over by the Spanish.  The crop spread throughout Europe since it was able to grow in poor soil conditions and its ability to properly feed large populations.  The potato was not planted in significant number in the United States until the early 1800s.  Today China, Russia, and India grow more potatoes than the United States.

Butter/Creme for the Potatoes:  The milk-based product to make mashed potatoes creamy comes from the Europeans who had domesticated cows.

Pumpkin Pie/Pumpkin Bread:  Pumpkins were grown by many Indian tribes as a staple crop.  The vitamin and mineral rich squash helped many survive the harsh northeastern winters.  Puritan records state that pumpkins were given to the Puritans by Indians during the hard few years.

Cranberries:  Various spieces of cranberries are found throughout the cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere.  It was a popular food of Indians and is believed to be one of the foods given to the Puritans by the Indians.

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