Five Thanksgiving Books
Here are a few volumes, new and old, that we found invaluable when putting together our Thanksgiving stories. Every one is well worth consulting as you plan your own holiday feast
Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well (Random House, 2012), a lighthearted manual from former New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton, includes everything from discussions of cookware (a luxurious French-style roasting pan, for instance, versus a simple one large enough to hold the bird) to recipes for the basics—from green beans to pan gravies—peppered with witty asides throughout.
For an historical perspective on the centerpiece of the feast, we recommend Andrew F. Smith's The Turkey: An American Story (University of Illinois Press, 2006), which traces the bird's journey from its native North America to the tables of Europe and, finally, to its status as an American icon.
Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie (Clarkson Potter, 2005), by Kathleen Curtis, staff historian at Plimouth Plantation in Massachusetts, and Sandra Oliver, author of "Home Slice," is equal parts history and cookbook. It's full of surprising facts (the only documented menu items at the first Thanksgiving were deer and wildfowl), and offers inspiring recipes for any turkey day feast, from the quintessential—see Mrs. Henderson's 1882 oyster stuffing—to newer favorites, like pavo relleno con moros, Cuban-style turkey stuffed with black beans and rice.
First-time hosts might consider Rick Rodgers' comprehensive Thanksgiving 101: Celebrate America's Favorite Holiday with America's Thanksgiving Expert (Harper-Collins, 2007). Rodgers maps out the meal down to the last detail, including menu planning and how to time food preparation, as well as advice on important matters such as choosing the right turkey—try wild birds for robust flavor, avoid frozen ones when possible—and recipes beginning with starters like spiced walnuts and ending with finales like pumpkin-hazelnut pie.
Though Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions (Ten Speed Press, 2004) is not a Thanksgiving book, per se, author Fernando Divina, in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, nevertheless traces the deepest roots of our Thanksgiving traditions. Each chapter opens with an essay by a member of an indigenous community, followed by recipes, like venison with juniper and wild huckleberry sauce and maple syrup pie, that brilliantly showcase the New World ingredients for which we will always be thankful.