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Go on a Thanksgiving Tasting Tour (And Learn a Little History, Too)

Ever wonder where your favorite Thanksgiving dishes came from? These American towns are the birthplaces of some classic holiday meals. Every foodie should have these cities on their bucket list!

Thanksgiving is less than 40 days away, which means it’s almost time to start preparing our favorite holiday recipes. There are so many classic homegrown Thanksgiving dishes to enjoy, such as turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, squash, corn, green beans, and cranberries.

However, over the hundreds of years since the First Thanksgiving, which the Pilgrims celebrated after their first harvest in 1621, Americans have reinvented the original recipes. Some of the best dishes we enjoy every year at this time were not developed until relatively recently.

These reimagined recipes have helped Americans connect with the Thanksgiving holiday by creating their own traditions. The three dishes below are some of our favorite recipes that were created right here in the United States and have since become legendary Thanksgiving staples.

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Cranberry Sauce – Hanson, Massachusetts

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Hanson, MA / CC by 3.0 via Wikipedia

Cranberry sauce is a Thanksgiving staple these days, but it probably wasn’t part of the “First Thanksgiving” meal. One of the earliest recipes for cranberry sauce actually appears in The Art of Cookery (1796) by Amelia Simmons, which is the first known cookbook that was written by an American.

Records show that the first cranberry sauce dishes were offered to North American consumers in 1912 in Hanson, Massachusetts, a town located in Plymouth County. The town was first settled in 1632. It was named after Maryland Senator Alexander Contee Hanson, who was the publisher of the Federal Republican newspaper.

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Today, Hanson is home to over 10,000 residents. The town is full of lakes, rivers, swamps, and ponds to explore. Of course, it’s also full of history. Stop in for some classic American fare at the Olde Hitching Post Restaurant or Mike’s House of Pizza.

Hanson is also located just 43 minutes southeast of Boston, so it’s a great place to stay if you’d like to make a road trip to the most bustling place in MA without staying in the heart of it.

Green Bean Casserole – Camden, New Jersey

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Camden, NJ / Shutterstock

Green bean casserole was invented long after the First Thanksgiving, but it has become a beloved dish for folks who can’t get enough of this Midcentury treat.

Green bean casserole was invented by a woman named Dorcas Reilly in the 1950s. Dorcas worked for the Campbell Soup Company starting in 1949. The Woodbury-born Reilly developed hundreds of different recipes in the company’s Camden, New Jersey test kitchen. Her most famous invention was green bean casserole, a recipe she developed in 1955.

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Reilly was born in Camden, New Jersey, which is located on the other side of the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Today, its population sits around 80,000. It’s come a long way since it became a city in 1828, and it’s been home to several notable people including Jersey Joe Walcott, Rashad Baker, and Devon Still. But the thing we might have to thank Camden the most for is green bean casserole.

Dorcas Reilly gave the original green bean casserole recipe card to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio, in 2002. In 2018, she passed away in Camden at the age of 92. Her legacy will never be forgotten, as green bean casserole will probably remain a popular Thanksgiving dish until the end of time.

Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallows – Southern United States

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Atlanta, GA / Shutterstock

Sweet potato pie has a long history in the southern United States, where many felt pumpkin pie was a remnant of British culture they did not want. Their twist on the classic is made with sweet potatoes, evaporated milk, sugar, spices, and eggs. It was first developed among African-American communities in the South. The use of sweet potatoes, which are native to the Americas, were used by African peoples as an alternative to yams.

The earliest recipe on record of a sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows specifically didn’t come about until 1918. The recipe was in a trade journal called Sweet Potatoes and Yams.

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“This is probably the most favored method of cooking sweet potatoes,” the recipe in the journal reads. “A few marshmallows may be added a few minutes before removing from oven.”

Today, sweet potato pie is not only a staple dessert for many families on Thanksgiving but on Christmas, as well. It’s that delicious! Some of the most famous sweet potato pie dishes come from various restaurants in the South that all foodies should check out immediately. These include:

  • Sweet Auburn in Atlanta, GA
  • Busy Bee Café in Atlanta, GA
  • House of Pies in Houston, TX
  • Not Jus’ Donuts in Houston, TX
  • Earl Abel’s Restaurant in San Antonio, TX

Recipes, Tradition, and Travel

A recipe is forever linked to the region in which it was first developed. That’s why Thanksgiving is so special to so many Americans, who have made the holiday their own by putting a new twist on old classics. As these recipes are handed down from generation to generation, we will continue to develop even more delicious and delightful dishes as the years go by.

If you want to try some of the best Thanksgiving meals you’ve ever tasted, head to Massachusetts, New Jersey, or the southern United States. The traditions of Thanksgiving started there, so they know how to do this holiday better than anyone else!

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