Thanksgiving is the most distinctly American holiday of the year. (Most countries have their versions of Independence Day, but not a nationally sanctioned holiday dedicated to giving thanks.)
So did you ever wonder how the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving feast came to be a bird named for a Muslim country in the Near East?
Turkey was native to the Americas (hunted in the wild by Massachusetts Native American tribes and domesticated by the Aztecs). But when it came to marketing this New World food in Europe, the 17th century explorers and merchants named it for what had been a source of luxury goods and exotic foods for centuries: Turkey. Istanbul had the cachet of a global food market the way Paris or New York does today.
Other countries in Europe responded with a similar marketing strategy. The French called the bird dinde (literally "from India"), while the Dutch still call it kalkoeri—a corruption of Calcutta, India.
And yet, it's appropriate we eat turkey on Thanksgiving. This is our most ecumenical holiday and it never imposes ethnic, religious, or political boundaries. Everyone is invited to celebrate in his own way. And everyone does.
- We start with a pumpkin dip inspired by a Kurdish restaurant in Istanbul.
- Our turkey harks back to my student days in Paris where I learned to stuff the bird with truffles and butter under the skin.
- The grilled onions take a page from Italy's playbook (a sweet sour filling of honey and balsamic vinegar), while the cranberry salsa pulses to a Latin beat.
- Dessert offers a barbecue country twist on an American classic: smoke-roasted apple crisp.
Does your holiday feast break down international boundaries? Post details and photos on the BBQ Board.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, delectable Thanksgiving!
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