So, what’s everybody having to eat for Thanksgiving? Turkey? Stuffing? Maybe some cranberry sauce? Here at the Bangor Daily News, Sarah Walker Caron and her arts and lifestyle team have developed a great one-stop page for all your holiday food preparation needs, complete with an interactive map of your Thanksgiving table. Click here to see that in all of its glory.
Well, despite what I suspect will be the meal of choice for most Mainers on Thanksgiving — i.e., turkey and the aforementioned side dishes — it’s not what the New York Times has picked as Maine’s contribution to the country’s holiday dinner table.
Perhaps the country’s best-known newspaper (the BDN is a close second, I’m sure), the Times came up with a countrywide Thanksgiving meal, with each of the 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, contributing something to the feast.
And so, I guess partly because it would be awkward if all 52 of us brought turkey to the same pot luck, each state was assigned a signature dish that wasn’t turkey. Or at least not turkey the way you’re used to seeing it on Thanksgiving — like California is bringing something called “sourdough stuffing with kale, dates and turkey sausage.”
(Next time, if we even invite California, can we just agree to ask it to pick up some drinks on the way? Sheesh.)
So what’s Maine’s signature Thanksgiving dish, under this New York Times scenario?
Lobster mac and cheese.
You knew if an out-of-state publication was in charge of assigning Maine a dish to bring, it would have lobster in it.
Cal Hancock of the Topsham-based Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. has claimed the top prize in New York City’s Fancy Food Show something like a dozen times, and the winning 2013 dish? Lobster mac and cheese.
No wonder the New Yorkers are hooked on the stuff.
In the Times package, Maine’s entry is accompanied by a recipe for lobster mac and cheese, a variation on one previously published by NYT dining reporter Julia Moskin and “a rich and shockingly flavorful addition to the holiday feast.”
Shockingly? That seems a little much, but OK. We’ll take the compliment.
While you may roll your eyes that Maine has a lobster-based Thanksgiving dish here (so predictable, right?), the Times may be on to something. Many historians believe that at the first storied Thanksgiving, lobster was a significant part of the meal, and six years ago, when the Maine lobster industry was struggling, it pushed the seafood as a prominent holiday alternative to the bird.
“Some foods that we think of as virtually synonymous with Thanksgiving, like sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, were not on that menu for the first Thanksgiving,” then-state Senate Minority Leader Kevin Raye told National Public Radio at the time. “But one item is an item we seldom associate with this holiday, and that’s lobster.”
If you’re curious about what some of the other states are bringing to the New York Times table, Alaska’s got Russian salmon pie, Kansas has candied sweet potatoes and Louisiana’s got shrimp-stuffed mirlitons (which are apparently some sort of pear-shaped gourds).
I have to admit, I do love my Thanksgiving turkey. But if somebody brought lobster mac and cheese to my holiday dinner, I certainly wouldn’t turn them away.