How to Serve a Great Thanksgiving Dinner, 1920 Style

“…what really concerns us most is our own thanksgiving dinner – what we shall have and how we shall serve it.”

Thanksgiving tips and recipes from 1920

“New Fashions for an Old Feast” – “new” being 1920 style.

The November 1920 issue of McCall’s magazine was full of tips and tricks on how to come up with a Thanksgiving dinner you could be proud of. All of the traditional favorites of today were here – turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberries, stuffed celery – along with some more untypical Thanksgiving choices such as halibut, and oyster stew. Here I am going to share the highlights of the article entitled “New Fashions for an Old Feast”, and you just may find a new, old-fashioned way to prepare one of your holiday favorites.

1. The Turkey

“In buying a turkey, it is better never to buy one smaller than eight pounds. The bone in any one will weigh a godly amount, and more meat will be added for every pound after the frame is paid for.”

“Select a bird with an unbroken skin, pump dark legs and the cartilage at the tail end of the breast-bone soft and pliable. If you are fortunate enough to find a turkey with the wings on, be sure to save them. Cut them off carefully; rub a little salt at the joint; dry them, and a nicer brush to use in getting into corners could not be found.”

“Your turkey can be prepared the night before, even to the stuffing. The stuffing may be made of plain bread crumbs, or oysters or boiled chestnuts may be added. Allow three hours for a ten-pound turkey, basting it often.”

2. The Red, Red Cranberry

“The invariable accompaniment of the turkey is cranberries. There are many ways of serving these berries; cooked and moulded with the skins, or made into jelly; as a conserve with seeded raisins, walnuts and an orange; or frozen as a frappe. An invariable rule for cooking the moulded berries, and one easy to remember, is this: Half as much sugar as berries; half as much water as sugar. Boil ten minutes covered, then pour into a mould which has been rinsed in cold water.”

Thanksgiving tips and recipes from 1920

Guinea Hens Ready for the Roasting

3. The First Course

“For the first course, the suggestions are many. Raw oysters, oyster cocktail, clams or grapefruit are fine appetizers. Dainty canapes with chopped olives, piminentos, cream cheese, anchovy or caviar may be combined, making a delicious course.”

“A clear soup should always be served with a heavy dinner, but many prefer to omit the first course and serve a cream soup.”

4. The Fish Course

“For the fish course, halibut turbans or fish cooked in scallop shells are very dainty.”

5. The Turkey and Vegetables

“Then would come the turkey and vegetables. For the starchy vegetable – potatoes, mashed and beaten with a little milk and butter, well seasoned, put in a buttered baking dish and browned in the oven are delicious.”

6. Thanksgiving Salads

“Some unusual salads are celery with red and green peppers, large red apples hollowed out and filled, white cherries with the pit replaced by a bit of salted pecan nut, and tomatoes, their peel turned back like rose petals.”

Thanksgiving tips and recipes from 1920

A Tomato with its Peel turned back like Rose Petals


7. Thanksgiving Desserts

“The most popular of Thanksgiving desserts is flaky pie with a lucious rich filling – mince, apple or pumpkin. Excellent pumpkin can be purchased in cans. Another delicious dessert is New England pudding made of crackers, molasses, eggs, raisins and spices and served with a sauce. This does not trespass on the plum puddings which must be kept for Christmas. Ice-cream or ices are, of course, approriate.”

“Thanksgiving sweets and relishes are legion but nuts must always be present. Stuffed figs and dates, candied orange, lemon or grapefruit peel are more suitable than ready-made candies.
All kinds of pickles and jellies have their place, too.”

8. Drinks

“For a drink, nothing is more appropriate than sweet cider or grape juice.
Perfectly made black coffee should always be the grand finale of the feast.”

Thanksgiving tips and recipes from 1920

The Complete Thanksgiving Dinner Menu, 1920

Here is a list of all the recipes that are provided in this article. So if you would like to try any of them, be sure to click on the thumbnail link to the complete article below.

Pumpkin Pie
Jack O’Lantern Canapes
Stuffed Celery
Turkey or Guinea Hen Stuffing
Thanksgiving Pudding
Baked Onions
Frozen Cranberries
Halibut Turbans

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving tips and recipes from 1920

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