What that turkey is all about

Anthropology professor Merry White explains significance of a Thanksgiving menu and the peril of modification

Circa 1621, the chief of the Wampanoag of Massachusetts and Rhode Island pays a friendly visit to the Pilgrims’ camp at Plymouth Colony with his warriors. Photo by MPI/Getty Images

Why did President Lincoln name Thanksgiving a national holiday?

Do we have any idea what was on the menu that first Thanksgiving in 1621?

No one truly knows what was served at that first Thanksgiving dinner, but most Americans are familiar with what fills the plate today. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Why did Americans gravitate toward what are now Thanksgiving staples, like turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie?

Are holiday cooks veering from canned and frozen foods toward more homemade items?

Americans now favor fresh ingredients and meals made from scratch as opposed to once trendy canned and frozen foods. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Deviating from the normal Thanksgiving menu is a big cultural faux pas. I understand you have some experience in that area.

What’s better in your opinion, the actual meal or the leftovers?

Why do you think we’re compelled to eat until we’re ill?

Cutting-edge research and commentary out of Boston University, home to Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners and Guggenheim Scholars. Find an expert: bu.edu/experts

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