What's on the Table for Thanksgiving?

What are the typical types of food Americans eat for Thanksgiving? Our Editor in Chief shares what’s on her table for the holiday.

I decided to write an article about Thanksgiving food because I’m looking forward to eating all of it.

I read an article on the Washington Post about the top eight Thanksgiving foods and the history behind each of them. The foods they listed were:

  • Apple cider
  • Turkey
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Oyster stuffing
  • Sweet potatoes with marshmallows
  • Tamales
  • Rice
  • Pumpkin pie

Some of these foods I’ve never seen on our table for Thanksgiving, like rice, oyster stuffing, and tamales. But it really just depends on the family. So I’m going to share the food my family normally has for Thanksgiving.

First, at what time of day does the Thanksgiving meal happen?

For my family, we always eat the Thanksgiving meal at 1 or 2 p.m. It’s always been a lunch for us because honestly, who wants to wait around until dinner?! Our logic is to eat early, sit around and talk, maybe watch football, take a nap, wake up and eat the leftovers for dinner.

Some families have the meal during dinner time, which for many Americans is between 5-7 p.m.

Now on to the food!

1. Turkey

This is the MOST important part of Thanksgiving. Even though there is some debate if Pilgrims and Native Americans ate turkey at the first Thanksgiving, most of the people at that time did eat wild turkey. Now nearly 90% of Americans eat the bird for the holiday. In 2012, there were an estimated 46 million turkeys cooked for Thanksgiving.

It can be roasted, baked, or if you really want a heart attack, you can deep-fry it.

These are photos from last year when my brother, Nick and I prepped the Thanksgiving turkey.

Step one: put a bunch of stuffing inside the turkey (I’ll explain stuffing later)

international student voice magazine turkey 1

Step two: Seasoning! One stick of butter and a good rub with seasoning later, it was looking beautiful.

international student voice magazine Turkey 3

Step three: Put it to bed. This is my brother wrapping it up in foil and we put it in the fridge.

Then we wake up at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving day to put it in the oven.

international student voice magazine turkey 2

I really wish I had a photo of what it looked like coming out of the oven, but…..we ate it too fast.

2. Stuffing

Turkey and stuffing go together like macaroni and cheese.

Stuffing for a turkey usually consists of the following:

  • Bread, either crumbs, cubed, or dried
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Salt and pepper (sometimes other spices and herbs)

Using stuffing inside animals dates clear back to 1390 with the Romans. Not all families cook stuffing inside of the turkey, you can also make it separately. So you cook the turkey with the stuffing inside and when it’s done, you scoop the stuffing out and serve it as a side.

Our stuffing usually looks like this.

international student voice magazine hh-thanksgiving-stuffing
Photograph courtesy of www.history.com

3. Cranberry Sauce

I personally do not eat the cranberry sauce, but my parents love it so it’s always on the table. This is a sweet sauce made from cranberries and pairing it with turkey dates back to the 18th century.

My mom never made it, she would buy it in the can. I think because it comes out looking like this, that’s why I never ate it.

international student voice magazine cranberry-jelly-860international student voice magazine JelliedCranberrySauce-thumb-400x535-2574

4. Sweet potatoes

My goodness I LOVE sweet potatoes! According to the Washington Post, sweet potatoes made its way into the Thanksgiving meal around the 1800s and I’m SO glad they did.

Many Americans put marshmallows in the sweet potatoes. Our family never did that, however, we put raisins in ours. I think just because my dad loves raisins.

international student voice magazine sweet potatoes

5. Apple salad

However, the marshmallows do find their way to the table in my mom’s famous apple salad. Just so you know, it’s not healthy at all.

I can’t tell you all the ingredients that go into making apple salad, but all I know there are apples, grapes, marshmallows, walnuts, cool whip, and maybe pineapple.

Honestly, I just eat the marshmallows. This was the best photo I could find that comes close to what my mom makes. My mom’s apple salad looks much better (no offense www.momfoodproject.com, shout out for the photo below).

international student voice magazine apple salad

Then of course we have vegetables, like green beans, sweet corn, sometimes lima beans. We also have homemade noodles and bread too.

But the best, absolutely BEST part of Thanksgiving is next.


Next to the turkey, this is probably the second most important, if not equally as important part of the Thanksgiving meal. I LOVE everything pumpkin and this pie is my favorite. Pumpkin pie dates back to the 1600s, but didn’t really show up for Thanksgiving until the 1800s.

And the pie is not complete until you put a nice big scoop of whip cream or cool whip on top.

international student voice magazine pumpkin pie

These are just some of the main courses for our Thanksgiving meal. It really differs by families and I really hope you have a chance to experience a Thanksgiving meal with an American family. The food is great, but the most important thing is to be around those you love and care about, like family and friends. If you don’t have the chance to spend Thanksgiving with an American family, gather your friends and make your own Thanksgiving celebration. If you would like to learn more about the holiday, I suggest reading our history of Thanksgiving article by clicking here.

The International Student Voice Magazine team wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving!
The International Student Voice Magazine team wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving!


circostacarriewebArticle by Carrie Circosta

Editor in Chief

International Student Voice Magazine




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