50 States of Thanksgiving

Well, what do we think of the recent New York Times article on Thanksgiving dishes evocative of our fifty states? I don’t know….they seemed to be somewhat on track with the two states I’ve lived in as an adult, but they really went off the rails with Minnesota. You’ll see.


Their pick for Massachusetts was Clam and Chourizo Dressing. Okaaay. There is a large Portuguese population in the Bay State, and the spicy sausage is readily available in any grocery story. And clams? Well, certainly they are a New England culinary mainstay. I don’t recall ever seeing the two combined in a Thanksgiving dressing, but who knows? Maybe in the twenty-plus years since moving from New England, things have changed more than I realize.

And I’d say they nailed it for Virginia. Corn Pudding. Some variation of this seems to be on most Virginians’ Thanksgiving tables from what I’ve seen over the years.

I have two siblings in Colorado so naturally I checked there too. The pick for that state is….get ready….Pecan Pie Bites with Gravy. Because, you know, marijuana is legal there now. And evidently the entire state is undergoing a massive case of the munchies. I can just see my sister rolling her eyes at this selection!  Does this sound as revolting to you as it does me?

But nothing prepared me for Minnesota where the roots run deep on the American side of my family. When I think back to the meals served by my Grandma Helen, some sort of Jello salad was always on the Thanksgiving table and that’s what I expected to see in the article. Nope. They picked “Grape Salad” of all things. Seriously? This just seemed wrong. Strawberry Jello with marshmallows and little mandarin oranges? Yes, I remember that. And then the year Grandma made green Jello with PEAS and little bits of celery? That made a lasting impression on a horrified little girl.

So I had to laugh when I saw what a furor the grape salad selection has caused in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. There is quite a tempest in the culinary teapot evidenced by this hilarious letter from an outraged Minnesotan:

Dear New York Times,

What the hell is “grape salad”?


All of Minnesota

I’m chuckling, too, because I made grape salad just last month when two friends came for lunch, and both of them asked for the recipe. Like any grassroots recipe, no two versions are the same. Here’s mine:

Controversial Grape Salad

  • Pluck as many red or green seedless grapes off the stem as you think will serve your guests. Wash and dry them.
  • In a bowl, combine sour cream and brown sugar until it tastes nice and sweet. Add a bit of vanilla, if you like.
  • Fold the grapes into the sour cream mixture and refrigerate.
  • Toast a bit of shredded coconut. Find your bottle of Kahlua.
  • When ready to serve, spoon about half an individual serving amount into a pretty bowl. Sprinkle a little coconut over the grapes, and then pour a little Kahlua on top. Add the second half of the grapes, garnish with a bit more coconut and another nice drizzle of Kahlua. Repeat.
  • Serve with confidence!

By the way, my two friends who came for lunch hail from Georgia and Texas. They both loved the grape salad. Uff Da!

Please do let me know what you think of your state’s recipe pick! You will find your state in the little “Jump to” box under the headline of the article.


About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. And the odd thought or two.
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90 Responses to 50 States of Thanksgiving

  1. ksbeth says:

    i love that there is a furor about all of this. as for michigan, i have to agree with our selected dish, (baked german potato salad), for the upper peninsula and their german heritage, but i’ve rarely, if ever, seen this served in the lower peninsula, where the majority of our population lives. we are like two very different states here. )

    Liked by 1 person

    • How interesting, Beth. I’ve often said that about Virginia too (Northern VA around the capital could qualify as its own state, IMHO). That’s good news about the potato salad as we cannot afford any more controversy in the MIdwest right now!


    • cat9984 says:

      I agree completely. I grew up in Southeast Michigan and never tasted Baked German Potato Salad until I went to a German restaurant in college. My husband’s family had it for Christmas every year (they’re German). Maybe they meant unique, not evocative.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This made me smile. Correction, this made me GOL (guffaw out loud). Love the letter from Minnesota.


  3. Jeanie says:

    I love this,Barb, just as I enjoy all of your writings. Isn’t it fun, and interesting the various traditional foods? A dear friend of mine, from Baltimore and German decent, always served sauerkraut with little sausages in it. Our families shared many Thanksgivings together before they moved away. The sauerkraut was a very tasty addition….and I am not, usually, a huge fan of sauerkraut ! It just goes to show that food with friends always tastes better. Have a very happy and tasty Thanksgiving.


    • Being half Kraut…er, German myself, I would not object to sauerkraut on the table but I think a few others might look askance. YES! I love that we still have a few regional differences in our foods and are not one vast homogeneous meal….yet. Thanks, Jeanie.


  4. ritaroberts says:

    WOW ! I love these recipes Barbara, especially the GRAPE SALAD because I do put them in my salad anyway ,also nuts I wonder if folding your cream in, is the same as me mixing with our salad cream. However ! never heard of the brown sugar added. I am going to try your version. Thanks for a most interesting post. Love it !


  5. This is such a fun post! First of all, I have to say I am going to be making your grape salad.. oh yeah! We claim St. Louis as home and I have had more than my share of gooey butter cake and it is one delicious gooey sweet treat but I have never seen it at the Thanksgiving dinner table sharing space with pumpkin pie and definitely not in place of pumpkin pie… 😮 Maybe for breakfast Thanksgiving morning. I half expected to see toasted ravioli, another St. Lou tradition! Maybe you have some other MissouREE people here that will have more to say about gooey butter cake. Your Grandmother’s green Jello with peas and bits of celery.. I have a vague memory of that! A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family in case I don’t get another chance.. 🙂


    • Hello Pix! I think you will love the grape salad recipe. I’ve never made it for anyone who didn’t really love it. Everything depends on the quality of the grapes though! I’ve never had a gooey butter cake. Sounds like something that would adhere immediately to my thighs, LOL. Yes, what the heck was going on back in the day with those dreaded Jello salads. My Southern Belles here in Virginia call them “congealed” salads. UGH. Yes, my friend, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as well. It’s time for me to start on the cranberry bread!


  6. Jodi says:

    Ok – I am LOLing! You find the most interesting tidbits to share! So first – PA is bacon. Gotta agree. There will likely be bacon in our brussells sprouts! Bacon goes well in just about anything I say! And brown sugar glazed sounds even better.
    Second – can’t wait to try your grape salad – sounds awesome and love those kind of recipes “get out your bottle of Kahlua,” handfuls of this – sprinkle of that – no fine measurements needed!
    Third – laughing about jello salads – especially peas and celery in green jello. Seems my mom tried various crazy jello desserts when I was a child and it was “all the rage!”
    Fourth – love the comment about Colorado – makes PERFECT sense!
    Completely enjoyed this post! Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bacon and Brussels sprouts is a match made in heaven! I have a friend who is a superb cook and she adds to the roasted BS a handful of good blue cheese and dried cranberries rehydrated in balsamic. OMG! Cannot even begin to tell you how quickly we devour that dish.

      If you do make the grape salad, make sure the grapes themselves are as perfect as you can find and I always make the sour cream/brown sugar concoction just a bit sweeter than I think I need. Play around with it, I’m sure you will take it to new heights!

      Oh, the horrors of those Jello salads combined with canned vegetables. I remember so clearly looking at the green blob….molded, of course, like a turban, and just wanting to cry….

      My sister, Mary, lives in CO and is a divine cook. She will not be happy with her state’s pick!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sue Mayo says:

    You name it we had it. My Mom was a wonderful cook. Everything from scratch. I laugh when I see your reference to” congealed” salads. UGH. Mom would make one for me that I loved. Black cherry with whole black cherries and Coca Cola toped with fresh whipped cream. Yum. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


    • You will not convert me to liking congealed salads, Madam, although yours sounds less gruesome than that green thing with wrinkled peas suspended in gelatin. The horror! And sending you warm Thanksgiving greetings. Gobble, gobble.


  8. Alright then, I’m a life-long Minnesotan who’d never heard of Grape Salad until the Times article. And I’m even a native of Redwood County, MN., which the Times author references in a Facebook comment on the controversy.

    Check out my first blog post on the subject here:

    And then read my follow-up today on a Redwood County resident who discovered Grape Salad 10 years ago, serves it at extended family holiday gatherings and her family loves it:


    Who knows, maybe Grape Salad will become as popular in Minnesota as hotdish.

    I have to agree that Jell-O would have been a much better pick. Not that Jell-O is particularly popular any more in Minnesota. But it certainly was at one time.


    • Yes, Audrey, Thanksgiving at my Grandmother’s took place in the mid to late sixties. If I had to choose a dish that was indicative of her real Minnesota tastes, it would be a hotdish made with wild rice, I remember, and I think ground beef. I’ll be sure to pop over and read your most recent post on the subject! By the way, Grandma lived in Marshall.


  9. nrhatch says:

    This is a FUN and FUNNY post, Barb. You’re probably right about all those Stoners in Colorado. I love Pecan Pie. HOLD THE GRAVY!

    In NJ, lots of people do include Italian dishes in their Holiday Buffets . . . especially on Christmas.

    Based on this list, I’d like to start in Maine . . . and end up in Georgia. Mmm!


  10. Mary says:

    Grape Salad…ugh Pecan bites with Gravy…disgusting. Obviously a typo don’t you think! I think a craft beer is more indicative to Colorado then pecans. I am making a mountain of garlic mashed potatoes for my 13 guests; roasted sweet potatoes, butternut squash and brussel sprouts with a little yummy drizzle of reduced balsamic glaze; corn for the wimps, sausage corn bread stuffing, pumpkin bread and of course Ye Olde Thompson Potato Rolls! This recipe has kept me in the will for the last 21 years! Oh yeah, Minnesota is also best known for wild rice so a wonderful wild rice stuffing should be the side dish. Happy Thanksgiving and hoping for a “relatively” stressfree day!


    • No! Not “ugh” to the grape salad, it is delicious, trust me. You’d be surprised. Pecan bites with Gravy, disgusting. Who thinks of this stuff? Oh, your dinner sounds divine, darling, wish I could be there. Have a blast, I know you will. And thank heavens for those Thompson rolls.


  11. KerryCan says:

    Those crazy kids at the NYT! They must’ve had lots of fun putting this together. I’m completely okay with all their picks because they got New York so totally right–apple pie!!


  12. This article…and the comments to which it has given rise..has fascinated me…who knew what Americans ate until this revealed all?

    COL re the letter from All of Minnesota….!

    The American expats here are holding various Thanksgiving get togethers…but as we are persona non grata with the whole pot and boiling of them we shall not be tasting any of the delights outlined in your post…but suspect that neither will they given the limitations of supplies in Costa Rica.


    • How dare those American expats behave in such an uncongenial manner. Do you want me to have a word with them? I’m sure I would have tremendous influence with “the whole pot and boiling” of them. You know I just love that, Helen. And so glad you are adopting COL occasionally. It comes in handy. Now I looked up Puerto Rico in the article (the closest we can come to Costa Rica) and discovered mofongo stuffing….in case you are feeling a bit energetic in the kitchen on Thursday…..you have plantains, I assume?


      • It resembles a picadillo my neighbour makes…but then it is mashed and baked…I’ll be trying that, especially as we have plantains on the finca.

        We have a difference of opinion with the local expat community….re a gentleman who in our opinion was exploiting his children, in their opinion bringing them up to know the value of work.
        He knew the value of it all right…so valuable he did not touch it.
        It all came to a sticky end when his refusal to comply with the law on the vaccination of his children resulted in his whole family flying the coop across country on horseback in the rainy season during which flight one of his daughters was drowned crossing a stream swollen by flood water.
        A tragedy…that poor child…but for the expats he is a martyr to unjust law and to us he is a man who should be on trial for gross negligence manslaughter.

        Obviously there is a lot more context than i give here…but that’s the reason in a nutshell that we are persona non grata and will be eating our mofongo in solitary state.


      • As well you should be. Good Lord, why am I suddenly reminded of Guyana and Jim Jones? Surely it’s not quite that bad, but as you say, the poor, poor child. Enjoy your mofongo, dear Helen, and warmest wishes from Virginia down to Costa Rica.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Almost Iowa says:

    I swear, I have yet to attend a Minnesota pot-luck where at least a third of the dishes were not something floating in jello. At a tractor-pull pot-luck someone tried to suspend nuts and bolts in jello but couldn’t get them to float. The dish was a hit anyway.


  14. Thanks for sharing, Barbara. This simply validates for me, why I little heed these sort of stories. They’re everywhere and all it takes is one bored writer (notice I refrained from using the word journalist). And I’ll add that having lived in VA for 11 years, not once did I ever lay my eyes or taste buds on Corn Pudding. Must be a very Southern VA delicacy. 🙂


    • Hi Eric, yes, I agree, these types of stories definitely fall more under entertainment than anything else. There are three recipes for corn pudding in an old church cookbook in the “vegetable” category. Not sure it shouldn’t be under desserts with all the sugar, eggs, and butter. If I were to pick one for Virginia, it would be Bourbon Sweet Potato casserole….topped with pecans, of course. Hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving.


      • Neglected to acknowledge that they absolutely pegged New Mexico. People here might as well put chile in their coffee. It’s goes into and on everything else! I am one of six people who live in the state who doesn’t eat/like it. 🙂 Warm Thanksgiving wishes your way, Barbara.


      • I was trying to remember where you were now, so thanks for the reminder. I so remember “Hatch” chiles from my visit to New Mexico. On everything! Thanks again, Eric.


  15. M-R says:

    Has anyone EVER agreed with ANY of these silly apportioning of across countries | States | areas ? I doubt it. I dunno why people keep coming up with such stupid things.
    {grump grump}


  16. Parnassus says:

    Hello Barbara, After glancing over most of these American regional specialties, I am suddenly more resigned to spending Thanksgiving in Taiwan–I always miss this holiday, with its special meaning, its time-frame, and its gathering together of family, friends and good food. I’m surprised at that report from Costa Rica. In Ohio, we always included newcomers and foreign students, and over here the spirit is one of inclusiveness. My family has a lot of good cooks, who certainly never made dishes like those in the article. The Ohio recipe for peas and onions looks especially revolting–it gives a new meaning to the phrase a “mess” of peas.

    By the way, I just realized to my horror that I have been missing some of your best posts! There is some problem when I click on titles and I get an Article-not-found message. I will get back to you soon on these. In the meantime, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family, and your readers, but stay away from those Pecan Bites with Gravy. 感恩節快樂 (Gan-en-jie kuai-le)


    • Hello, Jim. So nice to hear from you!!

      I looked over the Ohio recipe and you’re quite right – revolting is the perfect description. Never mind Minnesotans being upset, this recipe….frozen peas??….is an insult to all the good Buckeye State cooks.

      One of my Australian readers contacted me yesterday to say she could not get through to comment on a post. I wonder if WordPress in general is having problems, or if the problem is with me. Please let me know if you still have problems.

      And I am so happy that you will be in the warm embrace of lovely Taiwanese friends during the Thanksgiving holiday. Was there ever a more inclusive culture?

      Xie xie, wode pengyou, Barbara


  17. This made me laugh. 😀 Loved the letter from Minnesota! I remember Mum making that weird jelly and marshmallows salad once (a remnant of our USA year). Did my head in – it’s a salad but it’s got dessert stuff in it…. We just restocked the Kahlua in duty free on the last trip OS so I am going to try your grape salad (soon as the local grapes are in season – not long now).


  18. joannesisco says:

    The strange concoctions you Americans come up with always amazes me 🙂
    Jellied salads and anything with marshmallows are just odd.
    … and letter from Minnesota was laugh-out-loud funny!


  19. reocochran says:

    I love when people use their regional food styles but also incorporate the culture of the climate and heritage of the peoples who live there. I found this to be a great post, Barb and cannot fault any of it and am amused by the conflict! ha ha! Smiles!


    • I think the Minnesotans have been so great over all this. Who knows, grape salad may end up being the state dish after all. Regional food styles are still alive and well and for that, I say hoo-rah! Just the other day a friend from Alabama told me he had never heard of cranberry bread. I was almost stunned into silence! Almost.


      • reocochran says:

        I cannot believe this one, either, Barb. I mean even Bob Evans has choices of banana nut. blueberry and cranberry breads, for most of the year. (This chain, I believe, is everywhere it seems!)
        I am sure that my grandparents would appreciate the fact we include seafood, since my Grandpa was from Sweden, and my Grandma would be so happy we include kuchen and streudel, since she is from Germany. My English and Scottish details are not so evident, except we do like to have some alcohol, usually during the meal a wine, then later a little whiskey or brandy in our coffee. I have had grape salad, with the green and purple grapes, mayonnaise, sugar and a little bit of juice to prevent browning. My Mom has used orange or lemon juice, just a little bit before adding the mayo. I forgot to comment on this, but it was usually not served at Thanksgiving, but in the summer as a side dish with potatoes, barbecued chicken and a green salad.


  20. bkpyett says:

    I’ve heard of sweet and sour, but pecan pie and gravy?? Your recipe for grape salad is new to me too, but can imagine that would be OK, even if a little decadent! A most interesting post again Barbara, thank you. I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving Day! 🙂


    • A little decadence is good, Barbara, I think. I serve the grapes in a very small little bowls so it is not quite as rich as you would imagine. It’s nice for when the ladies come to lunch although my husband enjoys them too. And thank you for the Thanksgiving wishes. Much appreciated.


  21. Diane Ahlberg says:

    I overdue for a chuckle loved this post- I grew up with something, anything being thrown into jello but never on Thanksgiving. Well done Barb


  22. dorannrule says:

    Oooooo! I love the Grape Salad recipe and will definitely try it on some of my “stiffer” guests. 🙂
    As for the green pea jello thing… yuk. And I have never even tasted corn pudding. Now spoon bread would be on my list of Virginia wonders. Great post as always Barbara. You are so full of great ideas.


    • Oh, I hope you like the grape salad, Dor. You can use green or red grapes or a combo depending on what tastes good. And I thought – wrongly, I suppose – that spoon bread and corn pudding were the same thing? The endless variations on corn meal down South is quite something. As to your last line, I have been accused of being full of it before, but never in such a complimentary way. Thank you, Dor! And I’m sending warmest wishes to you and yours for a Happy Thanksgiving.


      • dorannrule says:

        I think spoon bread (which I adore) may be a step above corn pudding. When you come for a visit you can get spoon bread at the Natural Bridge Hotel Dining Room. But here’s a brief description I found at http://www.abreadaday.com : “There was once a time when you would only find spoonbread in the occasional Southern kitchen, far less often than you would see its simpler cousin, cornbread. Spoonbread is a sort of cross between cornbread, polenta, a soufflé, and corn pudding. Properly made, it has an almost custardy interior, a crunchy crust, and is wonderfully soft and fluffy throughout. It is leavened with whipped egg whites, which is why it takes a little more work than a standard cornbread.” HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU TOO MY FRIEND! And thanks for your lovely posts.


      • A custardy interior, a crunchy crust…..sounds heavenly! Wishing you and yours the very happiest Thanksgiving. See you on the other side!


  23. Behind the Story says:

    Washington State’s pick sounds good to me: glazed shiitake mushrooms with bok choy. The only trouble is serving it hot for a crowd. I’d use baby bok choy and stir fry it at the last minute. I’m not wild about room temperature bok choy.


  24. Behind the Story says:

    California’s recipe also sound good: Sourdough stuffing with Kale, dates, and turkey sausage.


  25. As a resident of Washington state for 23 years I say…what??? A mushroom bok choy dish? Really? The SeattlePI.com had pretty much the same reaction. Washington is the land of Pacific Salmon, Olympia Oysters, Dungeness Crab, Penn Cove Mussels, and Tons of state apples and cherries, and those delicious Walla Walla onions. Our menu included smoked salmon for snacking before dinner, oyster dressing with the dinner (made with Walla Walla onions, of course) and the pumpkin pie had to share the stage with an equally important Apple Pie. Some of my friends had a turkey stuffing/dressing that was a sausage dressing with cherries in it along with the bread, celery and onions.

    That said……thank you so much for this post. It’s had me laughing ALL morning. I had to share the NYT article on my FB. It will keep us very entertained over the next few days. I’ve also enjoyed reading all of the comments. I will be making that grape salad, but prob not until January. It’s gonna take a couple of weeks to get over the “food hangover” from the holidays.

    Oh yeah…..my table has had jello for Thanksgiving since the early 1970’s. minced cranberries, celery and walnuts…along with sugar to sweeten those cranberries, all held together with a package of raspberry Jello.


  26. kristieinbc says:

    Great post! I grew up on a farm in northern Idaho, and when I checked the suggestion for my home state it was very predictably a potato dish. Potatoes are a southern Idaho crop. Uff da indeed. 🙂


    • Hello Kristie! I had forgotten you’re not a native Canadian. I know, right, how very predictable to choose potatoes for Idaho, but if they didn’t, there would be an uproar, I imagine, equal to the Great Grape Controversy. I know you have Thanksgiving in October up in Canada…do you cook pretty much the same types of dishes?


      • kristieinbc says:

        Yes, it’s usually turkey up here for Thanksgiving. One of the things that is different than American Thanksgiving is the fact there is more distance between it and Christmas. I kind of like that. It is its very own holiday.


      • I like that too. On general principle, I refuse to start decorating for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I want it to be its own special day here and not some prelude to the “real” holiday.


  27. Eliza Waters says:

    I would think MA would be cranberries since Cape Cod is where they came from originally.
    Have a great Thanksgiving. It’s going to feel like Christmas here with all that snow they’re predicting! Love your urn – gorgeous! You definitely have talent for decorating.


  28. Ann Koplow says:

    I’m giving thanks for this post, fifty times, from the state of clam and chourizo dressing.


  29. Dixie Minor says:

    That letter from Minnesota. . . hilarious! And the pecan bites with gravy?! Shudder. I am from Georgia. . . and yes, pecan pie is usually on the table! Makes me think of my
    grandparents’ house, in South Georgia, and the pecan trees in their yard. Enjoy your corn pudding and happy Thanksgiving!


  30. Phil Taylor says:

    Wow, your grape salad recipe sounds delicious! I had never heard of grape salad before. I also didn’t know about Minnesotans love of jello salads. About 5 years ago on the show How I mEt Your Mother a character from Minnesota brought his fiance home to meet his parents and part of the meal was this ridiculously large multi-layer jello salad. Now it makes sense! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours Barbara!


  31. Barbara~
    Pea Salad is my State of Ohio’s food. Interesting. We love it and alter it each time we make it, but I don’t see it at many dinners anymore…Iwonder why??? Hmmm…..makes me want to make some right now.
    Always enjoy your posts my friend!
    Faded Velvet


  32. markbialczak says:

    Yes, Barbara, luckily some of the dishes come and go. Sorry I missed the chance to wish you Happy Thanksgiving on the day. I hope you had a great one, my friend.


  33. Barbara … Hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We always enjoy sharing the feast with our family/ Everyone brings something to the table. 😉

    I was curious what the article would say about New York (where I lived before moving to Florida), Pennsylvania (where I was born) and Florida would have as favorite dishes. I can’t argue with New York’s Double Apple Pie. But glazed bacon for Pennsylvania? I would have to check with my relatives. To my surprise, Florida wasn’t listed – unless there’s some glitch. Maybe they had trouble finding “true” Floridians as its inhabitants come from all over. 😉


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