Chef Essig's Featured Item of the Week = Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from your friends in dining services!

Fall is now upon us. The harvesting of crops is complete. Days have grown shorter. We now have time to celebrate and enjoy the season’s bounty. Traditionally this is the time of year to enjoy the plentiful crops that have matured over the summer months. People often enjoyed this bountiful time of year when fruits and grains are ripe, fresh, and plentiful because the foods and dishes prepared during the winter months were traditionally limited to those that could be preserved.


Almost every region and country has a history of Fall harvest celebrations, occurring since the first crops were planted. These celebrations seem to draw from a common humanistic feeling of joy and satisfaction that occurs once it is finally time to enjoy the fruits of a hard earned labor, just at the peak of ripeness.

Thanksgiving's Roots

The very first Thanksgiving was in 1621; the Plymouth Colonists were joined by the Wampanoag Indians to share in the Fall harvest. The celebration lasted for three days. During this time, both the Pilgrims and the Indians set out to hunt and enjoy the produce from a successful growing season. This is traditionally known as the first Thanksgiving.

The foods we associate with Thanksgiving today most likely did not appear at the Plymouth feast. Sweet potatoes (and potatoes in general) were not cultivated at this time; corn was not eaten fresh but most likely dried for winter, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce were also not a part of this original feast.


So what was on the menu that autumn day? The only things we know for sure that were served were venison, which the Wampanoag Indians had offered three deer to the Pilgrims as a gift and wild fowl which the Pilgrims had hunted. Other items that were most likely on the table would have been seafood, such as lobsters, cod, clams and eels as well as vegetables such as parsnips, leeks, onions, squash, carrots and radishes. Some fruits such as wild grapes and plums may have been available. Walnuts and acorns may also have been used for the meal as these items were native to the area.

Thanksgiving in the United States

Thanksgiving in the United States occurs on the fourth Thursday in November. This was declared by President Lincoln in 1863, but it wasn't his idea. As early as 36 years earlier, Sarah Jodepha Hale (poet and editor of Ladies Magazine) began to advocate a national holiday of Thanksgiving. Through her poems, her letters to President Lincoln, and her books, she fought for women’s rights and national unity in a time of civil unrest. "If every state would join in Union Thanksgiving on the 24th of this month, would it not be a renewed pledge of love and loyalty to the Constitution of the United States?" Hale wrote in an 1859 editorial. Sarah Hale may not always be credited with instituting Thanksgiving, but she is best known for her children’s poem “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”

1863 was not the first year recognition of a unified day of thanks took place in our country. In 1782, the Continental Congress ordered a proclamation that the 28th day of November be recognized as a day of General Thanksgiving. Again in 1789, on recommendation from the House of Congress, George Washington made a proclamation that Thursday, November 26th be made a day of public Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Every family has their own traditions associated with Thanksgiving. Most families will be eating freshly roasted turkey and stuffing, watching football, or starting the day by watching the eight-decade-old Macy’s Day parade. According to the National Turkey Federation, over 90% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day.


Whatever you do this year for Thanksgiving, do not forget to thank those who have spent their time planting, caring, tending, and harvesting the foods we enjoy everyday.

"Non-Traditional" Prime Rib Thanksgiving Brunch

We hope you joined Dining Services for a "non-traditional" Prime Rib Thanksgiving Brunch on Sunday, November 21st in Holmes or Tobey-Kendel this year. We figure you will have plenty of turkey next week, so we served prime rib instead!

NEW this year... Holmes is open during Thanksgiving Break

Dining Services is trying something NEW this year... we realize that some students won't be able to travel and have a Thanksgiving Break away from UNC. So we will have a few different options for students this year... as well as Faculty & Staff. Please join us at Holmes Dining Hall for special hours during Thanksgiving Break (brunch = 11:30am-12:30pm & dinner = 4:30pm-5:30pm). Tobey-Kendel Dining Room, the University Center Food Court, and Bears Bistro will be closed during Thanksgiving Break. Our Retail Dining Locations will also have special hours during Thanksgiving Break... check them out!

Wherever you go, and whatever you do... have a safe & Happy Thanksgiving!

Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA

Executive Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA

Chef's Sources


Want to know what's being served in the dining rooms? Call the FoodLine (970.351.FOOD) for daily menus or look at our weekly menus online. Not signed up for the Faculty Staff Payroll Deduction program yet? Learn more about the program here.