Project “Family Food History” Thanksgiving

So of course by now, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with it my Family Food History project.  Since my aunt always makes a full, traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy, I didn’t want to make a ton more food since I knew everybody would already be stuffed.  I settled on bringing:


Gluhwein – German spiced mulled red wine


Spekulatius – German spice cookies (the Dutch call them speculoos and they are amazingly delicious!)


Bratwurst and Knackwurst with sauerkraut


Yorkshire puddings


Cheese plate with Scottish smoked salmon and cheeses from Holland, England, Scotland and Germany, served with French champagne dill mustard

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My aunt and the rest of my family made a delicious Thanksgiving feast.


I made a pumpkin pie from scratch with hot water crust and used a pumpkin from my garden.  My cousin bought an apple pie with caramel sauce from the school marching band.

When we got home, me, my husband and our two boys listened to “Alice’s Restaurant” like we do every Thanksgiving.  Then I cooked second Thanksgiving just for us.

From my family to yours, I hope everyone reading had a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Project “Family Food History Thanksgiving” – British Isles

Last time I blogged about my “Family Food History Thanksgiving” project, I covered my family’s German roots and the foods native to that country.  Today’s post focuses on the family history I’ve been able to uncover in the British Isles – Scotland, Wales and England.

Many members of my family have thought we were a little bit Irish, however all the “Mc” names I’ve found have turned out to be Scottish.  So no, we have nary a drop of Irish blood 😦   I guess that’s why I had to marry into my Irishness.

One caveat:  I will NOT be cooking a haggis.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, for some), I have never tried this most important Scottish delicacy, and I know there’s no way I could do it justice anyway, so I won’t try.  I also will not be making black pudding – I don’t think anyone in my family would try it!

What I will bring to the table from our Scottish ancestors are some sweets, like shortbread and scones, maybe with some currants, which are a traditional fruit used in Scottish cooking.  Brandy wafers would pair well with coffee or a post-feast dram.  The proximity to the sea and to the cold North means that smoked fish is nearly always on the Scottish menu, so I’ll plan to bring some smoked salmon to go on a cheese plate with some yummy English cheeses.  The Scots are well known for cattle raising (and cattle stealing), so there has to be some Aberdeen Angus or Highland beef on the menu.  Perhaps some roast beef with Yorkshire puddings or steak auld reekie.  With all that cattle raising, of course cheese and dairy products figure into the Scottish diet, so I’ll have to see if I can find some good Scottish cheese for the cheese board.

From Wales, I’ll have to try making Welsh cakes.  And of course you can’t discuss traditional Welsh food without bringing up Welsh rarebit.  When I was younger and used to see Welsh rarebit in the grocery store, I always thought it said rabbit, so I avoided it like the plague, not wanting to eat Thumper.  Only when I got older did I realize it was nothing more than cheese and bread!  Bara brith is a must – this “mottled bread” made with dried fruit, such as raisins or currants – is a Welsh specialty.

From the English side of things, there is plenty to choose from.  The Brits have always been rather fond of documenting their culinary history, so there are cookbooks dating back to the middle ages detailing the recipes of cooks and chefs in the larger manor houses and castles.  Yorkshire puddings, to me, are the biscuits of England, so they’ll definitely make the Thanksgiving menu.  Of course, every region of England has its own cakes, so perhaps I’ll bring some Essex spice cakes or Banbury cakes.  And since I’ve been watching “The Great British Bakeoff” religiously, a Bakewell or custard tart is in order.  Being an island, fish is always on the menu in Britain.  Swansea fish cakes with cockle sauce and minted peas are about as British as you can get.  A great Stilton, Devon blue cheese or cheddar would round out the cheese board.

As I add more items from the other regions where my ancestors lived, I’ll pare the options down to one or two per region.  Which dishes do you think should definitely make my Thanksgiving menu?


New BBC show highlights English food history

If you’re in the UK, the BBC has a new series on the historical origins of our daily meals.  Over three episodes, host Clarissa Dickson Wright reveals the history of breakfast, lunch and dinner through interviews with food historians and other guests.  In the first episode, “Breakfast,” she blazes through English food history from the liturgical beginnings of “break fast,” to pig farming and the traditional “full English” breakfast.  She interviews an archivist with Fortnum & Mason, London’s original gourmet food store, and explains the cultural reasons for the rise of the middle class and the need for stores like Fortnum’s.  John Harvey Kellogg, the American doctor who pioneered cold breakfast cereal, is profiled, with emphasis on his scientific motivations in creating a “perfect laxative” for health spa clients.

Viewers in the UK can watch the first episode, “Breakfast,” on BBC’s iPlayer.  American viewers can locate episodes of the series on or other file sharing sites.