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The centerpiece of contemporary Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada is a large meal, starring a large roasted turkey. All of the dishes in a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner are made from foods native to North America, the Pilgrims having received these foods from the Indians.

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Thanksgiving Dinner

Alternatives to turkey

Foods other than turkey are sometimes served as the main dish for a Thanksgiving dinner. Goose and duck, foods which were traditional European centerpieces of Christmas dinners before being displaced by ham, are now sometimes served in place of the Thanksgiving turkey. On the West Coast of the United States, Dungeness crab is common as an alternate main dish, as crab season starts in early November. Sometimes a variant recipe for cooking turkey is used; for example, a Chinese recipe for goose could be used on the similarly-sized American bird. Vegetarians or vegans may try tofurkey, a tofu-based dish with imitation turkey flavor.

Side dishes

Many other foods are served alongside the main dish—so many that, because of the amount of food, the Thanksgiving meal is sometimes served midday or early afternoon to make time for all the eating, and preparation may begin at the crack of dawn or days before.

Traditional Thanksgiving foods are sometimes specific to the day, and although some of the foods might be seen at any semi-formal meal in the United States, the meal often has something of a ritual or traditional quality. Many Americans would say it's "incomplete" without cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy. Other commonly served dishes include sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, green beans or green bean casserole, and a Waldorf salad. For dessert, various pies are served, particularly pumpkin pie, apple pie and pecan pie.

There are also regional differences as to the "stuffing" (or "dressing") traditionally served with the turkey. Southerners generally make theirs from cornbread, while in other parts of the country white bread is the base. One or several of the following may be added: oysters, apples, chestnuts, raisins, celery and/or other vegetables, sausage or the turkey's giblets. These eating patterns are very similar in Canada.

Other dishes reflect the region or cultural background of those who have come together for the meal. For example, many African Americans and southerners serve baked macaroni and cheese and greens, while Italian-Americans often have lasagna on the table and Ashkenazi Jews may serve noodle kugel, a sweet pudding. Irish-Americans have been known sometimes to substitute the turkey with prime rib of beef. Those of the vegetarian or vegan persuasion have been known to come up with alternative entree centerpieces such as a large vegetable pie or a stuffed and baked pumpkin.

While the turkey stemmed from Civil Wartime cost effectiveness, side dishes came soon after. The Sweet potato was added to the "Traditional dinner" to let southerners feel welcome into the activity, while the same goes with cranberry sauce and the alienated Northeasterners.

A very similar dinner is often served on Christmas.

Source: Thanksgiving Dinner - Wikipedia

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