Thanksgiving Staples: A History of Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato Pie

Mashed potato and sweet potato recipes are Thanksgiving staples, but what’s the history of these unmissable dishes?

It turns out that neither mashed nor sweet potatoes made an appearance at the first Thanksgiving table in 1621. In the centuries since that historic meal, though, they’ve become essential parts of Thanksgiving dinners.

The History of Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes

Could you imagine Thanksgiving without sweet potato pie now? The first Thanksgiving most likely had plenty of pumpkin, but not a sweet potato in sight.

The first Thanksgiving took place in Massachusetts, where sweet potatoes don’t typically grow. Native Americans did eat sweet potatoes, but that was mostly in the southern part of the soon-to-be-United States and in South America. It’s much more likely that the guests at that first Thanksgiving table ate ate pumpkin pie instead of sweet potato pie.

Sweet potatoes became part of the Thanksgiving tradition more than 150 years later. The first pumpkin pie was actually developed in France in 1653, and it wasn’t in any American cookbooks until 1796. Sweet potatoes grow very well in the warm, humid south, and pumpkin pie began to showing up alongside (or instead of!) pumpkin pie on the Thanksgiving table in the years after that.

Now sweet potatoes are in more than just pies on the Thanksgiving table. From sweet potato casseroles to fresh sweet potato salads, our Thanksgiving traditions and holiday menu are still evolving.

Mashed Potatoes: A Thanksgiving History

When it comes to Thanksgiving, sweet potatoes are the star of the show, but no Thanksgiving meal is complete without a big bowl of creamy mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes became an American staple in the 1700s. Potatoes are a native North American food that are easy to grow, filling, healthy, and affordable. As far back as 1747, Americans were mashing up potatoes with butter, milk, salt, and cream, and dishing them up on the Thanksgiving table.

Today, Americans continue to enjoy potatoes and sweet potatoes with their families on Thanksgiving each and every year. And we’re quite proud of that! Happy Thanksgiving!

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Brown Eyed Baker on Flickr

Halloween Recipe: How to Make a Spooky Mashed Potato Spider Web

Halloween Potato Spider Web

Need a Halloween recipe that will encourage your kids to eat their veggies? This spooky bowl of mashed potatoes is just the thing.

Halloween recipes are usually all about the candy, but you can also make delicious healthy treats to celebrate this year. For this spooky spiderweb, a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes are your canvas, and you use shredded carrots, black olives, and dried rosemary to create the web and the spider.

You don’t have to make those delicate shredded carrots yourself. Check your grocery store’s produce section for a bag of already-shredded carrots. If you can’t find them, use a knife to julienne the carrots into the thinnest sticks that you can.

Halloween Recipe: Spooky Mashed Potato Spiderweb

Ingredients

  • 1 batch of buttermilk mashed potatoes
  • 1 bag shredded carrots, or at least 1/2 cup carrots very thinly sliced
  • 2 jumbo black olives
  • 8 pieces of dried rosemary

Directions

1. Heap your mashed potatoes into a large bowl, then use a spoon to smooth them down. With a clean dish towel, wipe any potato from the sides of the bowl, so you have a clean canvas to start:

Bowl of Mashed Potatoes

2. Use your carrots to build your web, like in the images below. Start by creating an X with your carrots, then add two more rows to create an asterisk. Finally, use the carrots to create a few circles connecting the lines of your web:

Carrot Spider Web

3. Make your spider. Slice about a 1/4″ piece off of the top of one of your olives, and slice the other olive in half lengthwise. One of the olive halves is going to be your spider body, and the small piece is its head. You can eat the other two pieces of olive. You deserve a snack after making that detailed web!

Sliced Olives

4. To give your spider its legs, very carefully press each piece of rosemary into the sides of the large half olive. Place the spider body and head on your web, and you’re all done!