Thanksgiving: A time when everyone eats the same foods

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2007

Perhaps the most peculiar feature of Thanksgiving is that it is the one day in the year when virtually everyone in the country eats the same foods.

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Yesterday, at nearly every table in America, people sat down to a meal that included turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, yams, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. There might have been minor variations, like bread stuffing versus wild rice stuffing. But mostly it was the same meal.

The day after Thanksgiving is another matter. This is when real American ingenuity comes into play. I asked a random selection of people what they did with their Thanksgiving leftovers. What struck me was the variety of innovative ways people have found to deal with the remains of turkey day.

Of course, there is the obvious: turkey sandwiches and turkey soup. But turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving are unlike turkey sandwiches the rest of the year. For one thing, they always have cranberry sauce on them. And while you may sometimes see cranberry sauce on turkey sandwiches at other times, this is definitely the only time I know of when people commonly put stuffing on their sandwiches as well.

One post Thanksgiving tradition I hadn't heard about was potato patties. It is simplicity itself. Just add a few eggs to your leftover mashed potatoes, shape into patties and fry them up for breakfast. I suppose you could mix some stuffing in too, depending on the consistency.

The dishes that incorporate the greatest variety of leftovers are turkey casseroles. There are numerous variations on this, but usually what is involved is layering gravy, stuffing, turkey, and mashed potatoes in a casserole, ending with a layer of mashed potatoes and then baking until it is heated through and a little crispy on top. You can add green beans or peas or whatever other vegetables you might have. Some people mix in mashed yams and even cranberry sauce. Nobody mentioned adding pumpkin pie.

There are numerous ways people put an ethnic twist on their leftover turkey. Those who like Italian food break out the pasta and make turkey tettrazini. Thai food enthusiasts can make Pad Thai with turkey. If you like Mexican food, you can put together some turkey enchiladas. And for something more down home, there is turkey pot pie.

The following is a recipe for turkey enchiladas. I chose it because it is both good and easy to make because right after Thanksgiving, no one wants to spend all day in the kitchen.

Turkey enchiladas

2 cups shredded cheddar and monterey cheese blend

1 cup sour cream

1 onion, chopped

1 (2 ounce) can sliced black olives

24 (6 inch) corn tortillas

1 (19 ounce) can red enchilada sauce

4 cups cooked turkey, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the cheese, sour cream, onion, and black olives.

In a small skillet, heat enough oil to lightly coat one tortilla, and cook until soft. Remove and dip in enchilada sauce to coat.

Add turkey and cheese mixture to center of tortilla, roll and place in the prepared dish. Repeat until bottom layer of pan is covered with enchiladas. Spread enough sauce over bottom layer to cover.

Repeat process with a second layer; spread remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with remaining cheese mixture. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is melted.

Recipe adapted from

• David Ottoson owns Rainbow Foods and has bought, sold and written about food and health for 20 years.

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