The Story Behind Thanksgiving Dinner – A Micro-History of Locally Grown Thanksgiving Staples


Thanksgiving is at hand, and many of us have already begun preparing some of traditional favorites: corn, shellfish, roasted meat, and deer. Ok, so those probably aren’t the most traditional Thanksgiving foods in most people’s minds, but they were the fare at the first Thanksgiving . I suppose they weren’t traditional for the pilgrims, either, given that it was the first Thanksgiving, but that’s neither here nor there. While your Thanksgiving feast may differ from the original, there is something you can share in common with our societal ancestors. The people at that first Thanksgiving had local fare, and they knew where their food came from. Even if you didn’t raise your Thanksgiving turkey, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy local North Carolina produce with a history. While I can’t cover every dish you may have this Thursday, here’s the history behind a few Thanksgiving staples you may have in your box.

Apples. Pies, crumbles, turned to applesauce or apple butter, or in a recipe kit with bacon. No matter how you fix them, apples have strong ties to fall and the harvest. This week’s apples are from Deal Orchard. Deal Orchards is located just outside of Taylorsville, North Carolina in the foothills of the Brushy Mountains. The Orchard has been operated by the Deal family for three generations. They started in 1939, when Brack Deal and his wife Thelma Isabelle planted their first fruit trees. The Deals started with just 15 acres of orchard, but have grown over the years to over 100. Today, the orchard is run by Bracke and Isabelle’s son Lindsay and his son Alan, who oversee orchard operations along with their family .

Butter and Milk. Whether it’s in casseroles, baked goods, spread on warm rolls, or in a tall glass with dessert, butter and milk are key players in a Thanksgiving spread, even when they aren’t seen on the table. Your milk and butter from Papa Spud’s comes from Mapleview Farm. Mapleview Farm has been around since the 1800’s, originally located in Maine before moving to NC. Mapleview cows produce over 2,000,000 pounds of milk a year. The cows are raised, milk bottled, and butter made all on the farm in Hillsborough, NC. Mapleview products are hormone and antiboiotic free. They even make ice cream .

Potatoes. Thanksgiving potatoes come in a variety of forms, ranging from mashed to salad to French fries (I mean, someone probably has fries on Thanksgiving). Regardless of their final form or consistency, one would be hard pressed to find a Thanksgiving spread without potatoes unless a potato allergy runs in the family. And though potatoes come in a myriad of varieties, any red skinned potatoes in your box come to you from Britt Farms. Britt Farms is family owned and operated by Vernon and Jennifer Britt, and the farm has been in Vernon’s family since the days of his great-great-great-great-great grandfather – land that has been in his family since the 1600’s . The Britt family has been farming in Mt. Olive, NC ever since.

Pumpkins. One can’t forget pumpkins when discussing Thanksgiving staples. Perfect for pies, these pumpkins come from Dean Farm. Located in Wilson, NC, Dean Farm has been around since 1965. Not only are they the source of your holiday pumpkin fix, Dean Farm provides an experience as well as produce. Dean Farm has seasonal activities year round, and if the movie theater or skating rink aren’t your thing, even has a place to host birthday parties. Whether you in search of food, a field trip, or even a hayride, Dean Farm may have just what you’re looking for .

And that’s the history of Thanksgiving – wait, let me try that again. That was a partial, local micro-history of some of the foods you’ll be eating this Thanksgiving. It may not have included everything, but at least you know a few more people you can thank for your Thanksgiving bounty.
While it may not have included buckles on hats or how to use fish to grow corn, but it is short enough to read during commercials of the game. Anyway, size isn’t everything – something I plan on remembering when my belt has to be one notch looser on Friday.

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