Most of us associate Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.  Many of these items were indeed part of the first Thanksgiving feast, held in 1621 between the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth and the Wampanoag Native Americans.  But that first Thanksgiving gathering also offered venison, fish, clams, waterfowl, squash, and yes, even lobster!

Hundreds of years later, Thanksgiving meals still center on turkey and all the trimmings. But just as Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday, so too are the many dishes that have been introduced to the holiday that are a reflection of our nation’s diverse heritage.

Many families in the Southwest, for instance, include tamales as part of the meal. Or as suggested by Texas Monthly magazine, Texans could easily enjoy quail in place of turkey. Irish immigrants from years past made prime rib their centerpieces as beef in Ireland was an expensive rarity.

Sometimes the availability of a particular food is the reason why it becomes part of the celebration. Some West Coast communities serve Dungeness crab as the harvest season begins in November, while areas in the Northeast, with deer hunting season at hand, prepare venison.

Vegetarians and vegans, because they don’t partake in many of the foods mentioned above, may instead opt for a tofu-based substitute or a field roast.

Thanksgiving side dishes are even more diverse. Latin American specialties such as pasteles, roast pork, turkey with mole and arroz con grandules (rice with pigeon peas) grace a multitude of dinner tables. Many Southerners serve baked macaroni and cheese and collards greens, while substituting sweet potato pie for pumpkin.  In Boston’s North End, you’re bound to find lasagna in the mix.

All in all, the variety of food at our tables this Thanksgiving, much like the wide range of faiths and cultures we serve at Forest Lawn, is a true reflection of the diversity and uniqueness of America itself. It is one of the many things we can all be thankful for this year.

So, no matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving and what delicious morsels will be on your table, we at Forest Lawn wish you and your family a wonderful, peaceful Thanksgiving.

And if part of your Thanksgiving Day will include a visit to your family memorial, our parks and our flower shops will be open to serve you.

Happy Thanksgiving!