As you prepare your Thanksgiving table, Mexico will likely be far from your thoughts.
Why would it be? What do palm trees, sandy beaches and tequila have to do with our favorite autumn meal?
The truth is if you use your imagination, and there’s a striking resemblance between the iconic Thanksgiving horn of plenty and a map of Mexico. Hold the horn upright, and it’s a stylized map of Mexico’s mainland, Yucatan Peninsula and all.
Beyond this curiosity of geography, what might Mexico have to do with Thanksgiving? Yes, Americans who live in Mexico celebrate Thanksgiving gravy, stuffing, cranberries, and all the trimmings. Canadians too, albeit a month earlier. Expats around the world do the same.
But the Thanksgiving dinner table owes an homage to Mexico in more direct ways. Consider how your afternoon of culinary grazing is likely to start. No appetizer table is completed these days without guacamole (a word and dish from Mexico’s nahuatl heritage) and ripe tomato salsa, gifts from our southern neighbor.
Dig deeper and you may be shocked at how Mexico is, in fact, at the very heart of the Thanksgiving meal. We all know wild turkey roamed eastern seaboard forests when the Pilgrims arrived, no big surprise there. Turkey was a main source of pre-Hispanic protein across North America. However, the turkey we today enjoy has a more circumvented path to your dinner table. In the 19th-century, the Mexican wild turkey was exported to England, domesticated, and then reintroduced to American diners. So, for the next few days, we all gobble down poultry with a Mexican pedigree.
Complementing this noble bird, your meal will most certainly include Mexico’s grandest gift to the world: corn. All the world’s corn came from Mexico. Maize is one of the world’s greatest cultural and biological wellsprings, feeding billions around the globe while being at the core of Mexican identity. Rural Mexicans will sometimes refer to themselves as ‘hombres del maíz’; literally: men of corn).
But we’re not done: rounding out your holiday feast are pumpkin, vanilla and chocolate – all originally from (you guessed it), Mexico. Kahlua on the rocks anyone? Raise a toast to Mexico’s’ coffee land, verdant Veracruz.
From appetizer to dessert, Mexican ingredients and recipes make their way across just about everyone’s Thanksgiving palate. So, serve yourself another slice and raise a fork to Mexico a horn of plenty that continues to give.
Oh, and Thanksgiving is also a great time to talk about Spring Break vacations. Mexico, anyone?