How Favorite Thanksgiving Dinner Staples Are Changing

Rae Ann Varona


This is an excerpt from an article originally published in Asian Journal.


For years, no Thanksgiving dinner spread has been complete without the centerpiece turkey, sides of mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, and cranberry sauce, and the assortment of pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies.


But while Thanksgiving dishes have stayed the same at the core, it’s natural that they’ve picked up some changes and influences throughout the years.  Think deep-fried or brined turkeys that became popular in the mid-1990s, truffled mashed potatoes and savory bread puddings during the transition to the 21st century, and the use of kale in almost all vegetable dishes in the more recent years.


Here are some ways Thanksgiving dinners have been changing in today’s times.



Healthier holiday mashups


In regards to food, Thanksgiving is a holiday associated with unapologetic indulgence.  Kraft Foods even came out with limited-edition elastic “Thanksgiving Dinner Pants” that sold out in about a day.


But while the holiday has in ways marked the beginning of “cheat days” that go on until the new year, more and more people have been making the commitment of making their Thanksgiving meals healthier or more specialized to certain diets.


Take mashed cauliflowers in place of mashed potatoes for instance, which have been seeing an obvious uptick in searches every time Thanksgiving comes around.  Even mainstream markets like Trader Joe’s, Sprout’s, and Vons among others have picked up on the trend, making heat-to-serve mashed cauliflower readily available in the freezer aisles.


Specialty diets in general have been making an appearance during Thanksgiving dinners, with alternatives for those looking to avoid meat, dairy, or gluten becoming more accessible outside of specialty markets.


Recipes for vegan options that are still holiday worthy, like vegan gravy and vegan scalloped potatoes, can easily be found online, as can recipes for gluten-free versions of cornbread, bread stuffing, pies, cakes, and more.  


And yes, such modifications have applied to Thanksgiving turkeys as well with companies like Tofurky, Gardein, Quorn, Harvest Celebration, Vegetarian Plus, and even Trader Joe’s (which makes a more reasonably priced alternative) making mock meats stuffed with things like wild rice, traditional bread stuffing, vegan sausages, and even a faux wishbone among other things.


While mock turkeys aren’t as new as some may think, data from Nielsen Product Insider and Label Insight found that vegan and vegetarian products sell faster during the three weeks leading up to Thanksgiving than during the weekly average.  


“Specialty diets don’t restrict consumers from creating delectable dishes and desserts to celebrate the holiday,” read the insight report.



Mealkit dinners


Thanksgiving usually entails multiple trips to the market and hours of meal prep before getting down to the actual cooking, but with the growing trend of mealkits, Thanksgiving has become a prime time for pre-prepped and mail-delivered meals.  


Nielsen reported that 32 percent of Americans said they prefer using mealkits in making their holiday meals. On Google, searches for Thanksgiving mealkits this year more than quadruple that of last year, and are skyrocketing to the highest they’ve ever been.


The general idea behind the popular model is that instead of scouring for recipes before collecting and preparing ingredients yourself, literal mealkits with pre-portioned ingredients and instructions to curated recipes are sent to your door for you to get straight to cooking.  The upside is that it provides that same homemade feel without the extra time.  The downside?  The convenience does often come with a high price tag.


Mealkit company HelloFresh offered a Thanksgiving meal kit for eight to 10 people for $159 and came complete with the classic turkey, and everything needed for ciabatta stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, garlic mash potatoes, green beans with shallots, and apple ginger crisp.  They also offered a Sides and Desserts Box, essentially everything without the turkey, for $99 or about $9 per person.


Longtime household brand Williams-Sonoma offered a complete Thanksgiving dinner for eight to nine people that also covered the essentials with an organic turkey from Willie Bird Ranch, and sides that upped the scale like green bean casserole with Gruyere cheese sauce and crispy shallots, mashed potatoes with rich butter and fresh chives, and pumpkin pie made with  homemade pastry, all for $250.


For those looking for a more intimate meal with just two to three people, meal kit delivery company Blue Apron offers for its customers all the ingredients like a turkey leg and breast, green beans, cranberry, potato, and bread to make for a cozy at home dinner for $50.


This is an excerpt from an article originally published in Asian Journal.


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Paul Townsend, Focus Fotos (Flickr -- Creative Commons); Google Images
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