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The State of the Turkey Address
November 26, 2009 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Happy Thanksgiving, MetaFilter! If you have friends from different parts of the U.S., you might have wondered why they consider certain dishes to be an essential part of a Thanksgiving feast, when you've never even thought of them as remotely Thanksgiving-related. Now you can see what dishes were popular searches on allrecipes.com in various states thanks to a series of infographics in the New York Times.
posted by grouse (70 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for posting that. I've been contemplating the sweet potato/potatoe/yam variations since I first saw this. Also surprised that "pie" isn't higher in the list. Or "turkey" for that matter.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:00 AM on November 26, 2009


I was interested in the uneven distribution of cranberry sauce (#8) by state. It seems inconceivable to me that Thanksgiving dinners in the deep south are going cranberry-sauce–less. Another hypothesis is that more cooks there already know how to make cranberry sauce (and turkey, #14) and don't need to look it up. They have, instead, moved onto more esoteric and novel items like sweet potato casserole (#1).

The same criticism could be leveled at using this to infer what people have on their table in general. But I think the pattern of recipe searches is interesting in its own right.

Also surprised that "pie" isn't higher in the list.

Next year, we should make the pie higher.
posted by grouse at 9:03 AM on November 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wouldn't that tell you what dishes people aren't used to cooking, rather than which ones are essential? Essential stuff I know how to cook without looking anything up, I've done it over and over from childhood. But a newspaper or tv show might mention a dish, or a co-worker might bring it to a potluck, and then cause someone to go look for a recipe.
posted by dilettante at 9:03 AM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


grouse, if my southern co-workers are any indication, it's because people in those states are buying canned cranberry sauce.
posted by amarynth at 9:05 AM on November 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"cheese cake" vs "cheesecake" is interesting.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:07 AM on November 26, 2009


I've been wondering why everyone puts down green bean casserole every Thanksgiving, but now I realize that it is because I grew up eating Swiss green beans, not the kind made with Campbell's Mushroom soup. And what doesn't taste good with a cup of sour cream and 2 cups of swiss cheese in it?
posted by vronsky at 9:08 AM on November 26, 2009


Wouldn't that tell you what dishes people aren't used to cooking, rather than which ones are essential?

I thought that at first, until I saw that the search for "apple pie" is above average in New England, where I believe it's illegal to reside unless you know how to make apple pie. I think the search (in this case) may instead indicate people looking to expand their apple pie recipe repertoire.
posted by rtha at 9:09 AM on November 26, 2009


That's hard-hitting journalism, if I ever saw it.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:12 AM on November 26, 2009


I love those infographics, but they're reporting the recipes that people are searching for, not how many people are cooking a particular item. The purplest states might represent the heaviest allrecipes users, or the most inept cooks.

I mean, I don't need to go to a website to figure out how to make a goddamn fruit salad.
posted by box at 9:18 AM on November 26, 2009


My family is part Pakistani, and my sisters' in-laws are Egyptian and Turkish. We always have Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, corn, peas, cornbread, apple and pumpkin pies, but Thanksgiving is not complete without keema, borek, and ful. Tahini also sits next to the cranberry sauce, and chai alongside apple cider.
posted by raztaj at 9:18 AM on November 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't that tell you what dishes people aren't used to cooking, rather than which ones are essential?

Partially, but remember that this generation didn't learn how to make scratch pies or deviled eggs from Mom or from home ec class, so they're also going out trying to find a recipe for the essentials.
posted by dw at 9:21 AM on November 26, 2009


I'll be serving and eating whale.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:21 AM on November 26, 2009


I'm glad I moved out of the Broccoli Casserole belt.
posted by availablelight at 9:25 AM on November 26, 2009


I mean, I don't need to go to a website to figure out how to make a goddamn fruit salad.

Really? Does a fruit salad have marshmallows in it? Jello? Pecans? How much fresh fruit or do you make it from canned? Mostly apple or mostly pineapple? When you start thinking about it, "just cutting up some fruit and you're done" isn't as simple as you think.

My brother and I got in an argument over the family corn casserole recipe last night. Over the last 30 years every family member has altered the recipe slightly, and he's gone with subbing out the green bell pepper with a habanero. I said he was trying to dive a nail with a sledgehammer, and that I go with an ancho instead. And that's just two variations. We probably have ten in my family alone now.
posted by dw at 9:28 AM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Density of search terms could also indicate a greater regional willingness to cook something at home instead of buying it in a box from the grocery store/Baker's Square/etc. Or a lack of pre-made items of that type in a region's stores (could it be illegal to sell apple pie in New England?)

I was pretty perplexed by the lack of searches for "dressing" or "turkey dressing" in the South, until I hit # 31 - "cornbread stuffing". That explains it!

I'd like to see an aggregate of all the maps - that might indicate which areas search for more recipes in general, and which areas already know how to make their foods. Perhaps this would correlate to the age distribution among the states.
posted by Wulfhere at 9:29 AM on November 26, 2009


. . . it's because people in those states are buying canned cranberry sauce.

Yes -- I grew up believing that cranberry sauce is served in round slices, just like pepperoni.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:34 AM on November 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oyster stuffing doesn't even make the list?
posted by caddis at 9:37 AM on November 26, 2009


I mean, I don't need to go to a website to figure out how to make a goddamn fruit salad.

I went to enough websites for both of us. See, I got ambrosia duty this year, and having never made it but eaten plenty, I had a pretty good idea but wanted to see if I could find a really good recipe. Turns out some use sour cream, some use whipped cream, some use yogurt, and some use a combination of the above. Most have pineapple, marshmallows and coconut in them, but there are lots of other fruits and nuts in different recipes. In the end I got some of everything and made a few different test batches to see what worked best, and you know what? They all tasted exactly like every other ambrosia I'd ever eaten before. So you're right. There's no need to go to a website to figure out how to make a goddamn fruit salad. I wish you would have told me that earlier.
posted by Balonious Assault at 9:50 AM on November 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is great. The two things I am making for Thanksgiving are whipped sweet potatoes with a streusel topping and pumpkin pie. I better not fuck them up.

Also, Happy Thanksgiving.
posted by clearly at 9:50 AM on November 26, 2009


Yes -- I grew up believing that cranberry sauce is served in round slices, just like pepperoni.

Us kids used to fight over the end piece with the serial number indentation.
posted by availablelight at 9:56 AM on November 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


"Macaroni and Cheese"? Is that traditional?
posted by Mitheral at 10:00 AM on November 26, 2009


SQUANTO

NEVAR FORGET.
posted by fire&wings at 10:07 AM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


where's the stuffed ham?
posted by TheJoven at 10:14 AM on November 26, 2009


"Macaroni and Cheese"? Is that traditional?

It's a traditional side among black Southerners for Thanksgiving. It's soul food.
posted by dw at 10:19 AM on November 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I remember reading about a sociologist/anthropologist/historian who could guess what part of the USA you were raised in from the dishes you served at Thanksgiving, with remarkable accuracy. My google-fu has failed to find this guy (although it did find a couple other people who remembered him) - anybody have a link?

For example, my menu (turkey, stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie) puts me in New York. A Southerner would call it dressing and serve sweet potato pie; a New Englander would include dinner rolls (or some such minor difference from New York). Anybody?
posted by Quietgal at 10:31 AM on November 26, 2009


This year I am once again thankful for having moved back home from the US and not having to fend off well-intentioned invitations to friend-of-mother-in-law-of-neighbor's-of-co-worker's thanksgiving parties so I wont' "be all alone".
posted by signal at 10:33 AM on November 26, 2009


It's a traditional side among black Southerners for Thanksgiving.
FTFY
posted by Stewriffic at 10:34 AM on November 26, 2009


"It's a traditional side among black Southerners for Thanksgiving."

Interesting. Nevada has a strong showing for that search, did a lot of Southerners settle there?
posted by Mitheral at 10:36 AM on November 26, 2009


EAT, MY CITIZENS
posted by America at 10:38 AM on November 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


box: "The purplest states might represent the heaviest allrecipes users"

Nope, it's all allrecipes users. They use rank per 10,000 searches relative to the national average of searches per 10,000. Sure, a baby who had seen a statistician once could poke holes in any conclusions from this, but it's still interesting stuff.
posted by revgeorge at 10:43 AM on November 26, 2009


Thanksgiving data audio
posted by Sailormom at 10:49 AM on November 26, 2009


Thanks for the clarification, revgeorge.

(dw: fresh fruit and only fresh fruit, apple base this time of year, not a traditional Thanksgiving dish in my family.)
posted by box at 10:52 AM on November 26, 2009


My parent grew up in upstate NY, and would always serve this unholy orange-colored mash... thing. I think there were turnips in it, maybe, and carrots, which would account for the neon color. Bleeeagh. But everything else was yummy. Couldn't find "Unholy Orange Mash Thing" on the map.

Tonight, my husband will be roasting a chicken (he's not big on the turkeys) and then Saturday we shall make a beef Wellington, so we'll see how that goes.

Happy Thanksgiving! I am always grateful for the people on Metafilter!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:01 AM on November 26, 2009


I've been wondering why everyone puts down green bean casserole every Thanksgiving

Funny that this is such common knowledge - in my world, green bean casserole is a delicious Thanksgiving standard, and until yesterday I had no idea anyone felt otherwise.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:05 AM on November 26, 2009


It's a damn shame to see that sweet potato pie is still mostly a southern thing. Sweet potato pie kicks pumpkin pie's ass any day of the week. We use the Cooks Illustrated recipe, which has a layer of dark brown sugar on the bottom crust and bourbon in the filling. We make it every year, and ours is in the oven as we speak, filling the apartment with the most heavenly aroma.

But we're also making duck instead of turkey... (It's just me and my husband this year, no need to cook even the smallest turkey; and seems to me that duck and cranberry-orange sauce will go pretty well together.) So maybe you shouldn't listen to me.
posted by misskaz at 11:13 AM on November 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wondered where Dan Quayle was until I saw sweet "potatoe" in the NYT.
posted by Cranberry at 11:26 AM on November 26, 2009


It's a traditional side among black Southerners for Thanksgiving.
FTFY


I blame my Southern wife; she said it was a soul food thing. Her family doesn't have it on their table, so I took her word for it.
posted by dw at 11:46 AM on November 26, 2009


I really realize how many Yankees have moved into my beloved home state when I see Georgia falling behind the other states in the south when it comes to searches for "sweet potato" and "sweet potatoe" casseroles.

But I do swell with pride when I see how we are behind the entire country on many searches. We already know how to make many of the dishes.
posted by Megafly at 11:54 AM on November 26, 2009


1. Take one turkey (when the guy that shot it hands it to you because he doesn't want it since it's a tough old tom turkey) and leave it on the floor of the garage for several hours.

2. Drink alcoholic beverages.

3. Open the garage doors and windows. Use any portable fans that you may have handy to blow the stench of wet and possibly gut-shot turkey out of your turkey-cleaning area. Sharpen several knives and locate pliers, channel locks, etc.

4. Use the pliers, channel locks, etc. to pull the shit-smeared feathers from the turkey's quickly decomposing hide. When your wife takes over, go for a little walk out among the pines. Observe the frolicking of potentially rabid red squirrels.

5. Vomit.

6. Drink alcoholic beverages.

7. Watch as your wife takes packages of possibly gut-shot turkey out of the freezer over the next year or two. go for a little walk out among the pines. Observe the frolicking of potentially rabid red squirrels.

Repeat as necessary.
posted by metagnathous at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


my menu (turkey, stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie) puts me in New York. A Southerner would call it dressing

Nope. At least where I'm from, dressing is something that never goes inside the the bird; stuffing goes inside.
posted by dilettante at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2009


Things I have never even seen, much less tasted:
1) Green bean casserole
2) Corn pudding
3) Sweet potato pie
4) Broccoli casserole
5) Sweet potato casserole

Wow, Canada and the US really are different.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:37 PM on November 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was interested in the uneven distribution of cranberry sauce (#8) by state. It seems inconceivable to me that Thanksgiving dinners in the deep south are going cranberry-sauce–less. Another hypothesis is that more cooks there already know how to make cranberry sauce (and turkey, #14) and don't need to look it up. They have, instead, moved onto more esoteric and novel items like sweet potato casserole (#1).

The same criticism could be leveled at using this to infer what people have on their table in general. But I think the pattern of recipe searches is interesting in its own right.


Yeah, I found 'pie crust' really interesting because no one in the South is looking up pie crust recipes - and at first I was like...wait...and then I realized that everyone in the South just knows how to make a pie crust, while everyone in Oregon is thinking, 'oh my god, how the heck do I make a pie crust???"

Thanks. This was totally interesting.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:02 PM on November 26, 2009


Canada is different???, other than Turkey, I know none of these recipes!
Although as an Irishwoman I have to say the neon orange mash mentioned above is probably turnip & potato mash.....
but the rest is a complete mystery, hope y'all had a good Thanksgiving.
posted by Wilder at 1:04 PM on November 26, 2009


And Mubarak Eid, happy Festival of the Sacrifice, to all our Muslim friends.
posted by orthogonality at 1:10 PM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


But why does brined turkey have a Northern distribution? No hypothesis comes to mind....
posted by acrasis at 1:14 PM on November 26, 2009


acrasis, I had never even heard of brining until I saw it discussed somewhere on Metafilter.
posted by dilettante at 1:26 PM on November 26, 2009


Yeah, I found 'pie crust' really interesting because no one in the South is looking up pie crust recipes - and at first I was like...wait...and then I realized that everyone in the South just knows how to make a pie crust, while everyone in Oregon is thinking, 'oh my god, how the heck do I make a pie crust???"

Also, some people might just buy pre-made crusts whereas some people make them. Maybe I'm totally wrong, but it seems like foodies are really pushing the "making your own crust" thing.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:30 PM on November 26, 2009


And what doesn't taste good with a cup of sour cream and 2 cups of swiss cheese in it?

Not to mention the 1/2 stick of butter!
posted by francesca too at 1:52 PM on November 26, 2009


I'm in Philly for Thanksgiving with the in-laws and its definitely missing New Mexico red chile. :(
posted by signalnine at 2:24 PM on November 26, 2009


Chocolate pie? PEANUT BUTTER PIE??? I've lived all over the country and I've never heard of anybody making those for Thanksgiving, never mind a sufficient number of people for them to register in the top 50.
posted by HotToddy at 5:13 PM on November 26, 2009


I noted that RI and Louisiana, two of the places I've lived with the most distinctive regional home-cooked cuisines, are consistently below-average in almost every category. I bet they'd be through the roof in looking up etouffee and stuffed quahog recipes.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:59 PM on November 26, 2009


Upper Midwest data point: I made a chocolate pie for Thanksgiving. Also corn pudding and sweet potato casserole, plus a sweet potato pie for work Thanksgiving last week.

One year I tried a new cranberry relish recipe which involved grinding up clementines and cranberries in the food processor. I thought it was tasty, but everyone took a polite taste, then went for the cylindrical cranberry sauce instead. In their defense, that is in fact how God intended cranberries to be served.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:12 PM on November 26, 2009


Listen guys:

Idaho is -41% off nation's average for mashed potatoes. This is the least scientific infographic that I've ever seen.
posted by TypographicalError at 7:03 PM on November 26, 2009


Potsmokinghippieoverlord - "Unholy orange colored mash" on Google brings up nothing. On Cuil, I get this page, where I can watch Trapper John M.D.

This is relevant because after watching all 7 seasons of Trapper John M.D., I will no longer want Unholy Orange Colored Mash. Cuil gets better every time I use it.
posted by swell at 7:22 PM on November 26, 2009


Illinois is below average in pretty much every search, I don't think those people actually cook at home down there.
posted by MikeMc at 8:11 PM on November 26, 2009


I'm thinking that "Unholy Orange Colored Mash" is mashed sweet potatoes. And they are fuckin' delicious.
posted by nestor_makhno at 1:10 AM on November 27, 2009


sweet potato pie is an unholy abomination. the one true thanksgiving pie is pumpkin.
posted by empath at 8:06 AM on November 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I've lived all over the country and I've never heard of anybody making [chocolate pie] for Thanksgiving"

If there's no chocolate pie at my house on Thanksgiving I will literally stand in the doorway and turn people around to send them home. I'm not uptight about my menu in general, but I won't embarrass myself by putting on a table that doesn't include coffee and chocolate pie to finish.

There is never, ever an excuse for lack of chocolate pie.

""Macaroni and Cheese"? Is that traditional?"

Uh, yes? At what point would you want to have a Thanksgiving feast and NOT have macaroni and cheese? I put a big dollop of mine -- derived from an Alton Brown recipe -- on the plate next to a big dollop of spicy palak saag. And seriously that bit where the saag got kind of gooped into the macaroni? Best part of the plate by far. I'm honestly considering trying to invent some kind of dish that consists of layers of spicy saag and mac-n-cheese, based on last night's plate. Maybe a sandwich.

The saag, of course, was probably non-traditional. Good, though.
posted by majick at 8:36 AM on November 27, 2009


""Macaroni and Cheese"? Is that traditional?"

We Southwestern Pennsylvanians do not have it at Thanksgiving, nor would it cross our minds to include it.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 8:42 AM on November 27, 2009


A word on stuffing/dressing:

Stuffing is typically bread chunks mixed with various bits of fruits, nuts or other things, varying by your local regional tastes, and stuffed in the bird.

Southern cornbread dressing is more like a bready casserole, baked in a casserole dish in the oven.

The recipe handed down to me (going from memory, since we're out of town and I didn't make it this year) is as follows:

1 pan of cornbread
1 pan of Pilsbury "Grands" biscuits
4-5 pieces of sandwich bread
3 hard-boiled eggs
sauteed onion
celery
1 3/4 cans Swanson's chicken broth
Sage (to taste)

The biscuits, cornbread, and sandwich bread are all torn into tiny bits and mixed with the eggs, onion, and celery (all chopped into bits as well) and mixed with the chicken broth until it forms a kind of mixture slightly thicker than cake batter. Then the sage is mixed in. Bake in a casserole dish.

I was never fond of the celery, and my wife and I typically like stronger spices than the average southerner, so when I make dressing I omit the celery and add extra sage. It also tastes better if it's made the day before, so all the flavors can sort of "age" together.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:52 AM on November 27, 2009


Who ever heard of apple pie at Thanksgiving? Pumpkin pie, pecan pie, sweet potato pie, peanut butter pie, of course, but apple? That's Fourth of July pie.

And yes, here in the south dressing is in a pan on its own and stuffing is in the bird and everybody has their own recipe and the only meat ever put in it is giblets or eggs or trimmings off the bird itself -- no clams or oysters or sausage or ham or other meat.

Things I have never even seen, much less tasted:
1) Green bean casserole
2) Corn pudding
3) Sweet potato pie
4) Broccoli casserole
5) Sweet potato casserole


I don't know about the corn pudding (maybe it's like a corn casserole?) but the others are standard holiday/reception/reunion/funeral food. Southerners will make a casserole of just about any familiar vegetable -- green beans, corn, any kind of squash, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.

I was an adult before I learned anyone actually made cranberry jelly rather than opening a can and carefully preserving the ribbing on the sides of the jelly.
posted by notashroom at 8:54 AM on November 27, 2009


""Macaroni and Cheese"? Is that traditional?"

We Southwestern Pennsylvanians do not have it at Thanksgiving, nor would it cross our minds to include it.


Mac and cheese is as traditional here (Southeast) as turkey, ham, dressing, bread. It's hard to imagine any kind of gathering centered around food (other than specifically "coffee and dessert" or similarly tightly-defined exclusionary events) without mac and cheese.
posted by notashroom at 8:59 AM on November 27, 2009


Oh, and I should have made the distinction that the cornbread we use is made from white cornmeal and buttermilk, and it's not sweet.

Cornbread has its regional variations too.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:06 AM on November 27, 2009


Oh good Lord number crunchers. Get over yourselves. It is just fun to illustrate that different terms appear in noticeable geographic distribution. It doesn't prove anything. No one's PhD is on the line. Just. enjoy. it.

The Thanksgiving menu at my family's house: Turkey, dressing, (canned) cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole and Sister Schubert's rolls.

My contribution: apple and cherry pie. I lived in New England for years and picked up habits, apparently.
posted by jefficator at 9:25 AM on November 27, 2009


Really? Does a fruit salad have marshmallows in it? Jello? Pecans? How much fresh fruit or do you make it from canned? Mostly apple or mostly pineapple? When you start thinking about it, "just cutting up some fruit and you're done" isn't as simple as you think.

I tend to think more along the lines of "Do I think Jello would be a delicious and appealing thing to put in a fruit salad?" Searching for recipes only raises more of these sorts of questions as more options are revealed.

Never before having considered the question of adding Jello to fruit salad, I'm considering the concept of one with Jello shots added. This will eventually make the question of acceptability of fruit salad ingredients to particular family and regional traditions moot.
posted by yohko at 12:16 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


My read on the infographic is that people in Idaho already know how to make mashed potatoes.
posted by yohko at 12:18 PM on November 27, 2009


Mac and cheese is as traditional here (Southeast) as turkey, ham, dressing, bread.

I'm in the mid-atlantic, and while Mac & Cheese is often served at family greetings because it's cheap and easy to make, there's no particular association with Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving here is: Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. Anything else is optional.
posted by empath at 12:36 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm considering the concept of one with Jello shots added

I think that would improve almost any family gathering.
posted by empath at 12:37 PM on November 27, 2009


Well, except my family, because they're Irish and it would probably end in brawling.
posted by empath at 12:37 PM on November 27, 2009


I grew up in Alaska, and spent the rest of my time in Washington and Oregon, with a family based in Washington. This infographic is the first time I've seen macaroni and cheese linked with Thanksgiving. Mind: blown.

Although I was dimly aware of the existence of green bean casserole, I had never eaten it until about 5 years ago. It was served at a holiday meal at a friend's house. You should have seen the looks I got when I exclaimed over how delicious it was.

VERY. DELICIOUS.

I now make it a point to bake one for myself after Thanksgiving. In fact, I have all the ingredients (by which I mean "cans") sitting on the kitchen counter, ready for assembly today.
posted by ErikaB at 12:09 PM on November 28, 2009


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