02 November 2008

Eating Thanksgiving

I've had the privilege to cook the family Thanksgiving dinner for at least the last 15 years. I always target the serving time for 6:00 P.M. because I was raised with the idea that Thanksgiving dinner is served at dinner time.

Over the years, I've learned that many other people serve and eat their traditional Thanksgiving dinner much earlier in the day, as early as 2:00 P.M., some even earlier at 1:00 P.M. or even 12:00 Noon. Others at 3:00 P.M. or 4:00 P.M.

I've wondered for a long time why such a discrepancy in the tradition among families.  There was one year, 1999, when I asked as many people as I could why some people ate earlier in the day. Most could only state that it was the way it was.  That's their family tradition and that's it. A few would mention something about taking the full afternoon to eat the large meal.

I had my own private theory that since senior citizens tend to eat dinner earlier than others, and Thanksgiving often included celebrating with seniors, that the roast turkey was served early for their sake.  But that would only explain a serving time as early as 4:00 P.M., not 1:00 P.M.

I've heard some people actually take advantage of this discrepancy, allowing them to attend two or more Thanksgiving celebrations, in which one party's meal was served early, while subsequent parties' meals were served later.

A quick search on Yahoo! Answers reveals similar questions posed by people, asking others when they serve and eat.  Interestingly, most people seem to answer 2:00 P.M. or earlier, and a few people point to the advantage of completing the meal early, so they could either watch nationally televised football games (Army vs Navy, or Detroit Lions), or go toss their own football, or enjoy a walk with the remaining daylight.  Some mentioned the practice of serving the turkey early in the afternoon and then serving the dessert, typically pie, in the evening.

Having been the Thanksgiving cook for so long, I usually experience the day as an opportunity to flex my cooking skills and also a cathartic break from my hectic career oriented life. An evening serving time allowed for most of the daytime to anticipated and enjoyed food preparation.

Switching to a high temperature roasting method some 7 years ago did reduce the turkey cooking time significantly, as did the shrinking of the number of relatives attending a few years ago, but the annual tradition of cooking has always been something I've looked forward to.

So, what time do you usually serve/eat Thanksgiving Dinner, and why?