Monday, November 30, 2009

Cornucopia

Whatever you made for Thanksgiving, you probably spent the rest of the weekend finishing. Even though the last thing anyone wants to think of today is holiday food, the Times published an article last Wednesday that deserves another look. After interviewing the keepers of various recipe sites, the author provided a snapshot of the most searched-for holiday recipes by region, and the results are interesting.

Growing up, our Thanksgiving menu never varied, and because it never varied I assumed that the entire country ate what we ate: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green been casserole, gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie. My mother always started things off with fruit salad, which I figured was her idiosyncrasy, since she believed fruit salad to be a "fancy" start to a meal. I therefore had no idea that, had I grown up in the Midwest, Thanksgiving would have been incomplete without a cheese ball.

Most of the recipe searches in the article are for items one would expect, although it's interesting to note that most of the searches for green bean casserole came from the West coast, as if San Francisco liberals have never heard of such a thing, and that most of the candied sweet potato searches came from the South, as if sweet potatoes and marshmallows are somehow ingredients foreign to the Southern diet. I had no idea, however, that deviled eggs were part of anyone's holiday menu, but they are in the top 25 most searched-for list, and would appear to be a staple of the mid-Western holiday diet.

What do Tennessee and Idaho have in common? Residents of both states apparently enjoy cheesecake as their holiday dessert. If you live in the South, you are apt to serve macaroni and cheese alongside the sweet potato pie on Thanksgiving day. If you happen to live smack dab in the middle of the country, your turkey was accompanied by corn casserole, based on this data. Those who live in the northern plains and the Northwest appear much more likely to brine their turkeys. In the South, green bean casserole was not searched for, while this was the only region of the country where cooks clamored for recipes for broccoli casserole, whatever that may be.

Looking for stuffed mushrooms on your holiday plate? Get invited to dinner in New England or Alaska. It turns out fruit salad is a Thanksgiving staple, just not on either coast, and that in this one instance my mother was a red-stater. Butternut squash is something I can imagine as a holiday regular, but either only New Englanders needed a recipe for this dish, or it's only served in New England.

I'm not sure what conclusions can be drawn from this data, but I did learn that we are a large and diverse country. I mean, deviled eggs? Cheese balls?

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