Positively Philadelphia: A brief history of our Thanksgiving trimmings

Lauren Lipton
November 18, 2018 - 8:00 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — If you wonder why we eat some of the things we do on Thanksgiving, who better to ask than chef Walter Staib. 

He's the culinary ambassador of the City of Philadelphia and the chef and proprietor of the City Tavern Restaurant in Old  City, where the holiday dinner is as historically close as you can get to the early days.  

"The turkey came about because it was plentiful," Staib explained. "Turkeys were everywhere. Dressed, they could be 45 pounds — they were huge. "

How about all those pastries with fruit in the middle?

"Fruits wouldn't hold up very well; there were no supermarkets around then. So once the fruit got picked, the flavor was still there months later but the fruit became shriveled. A strudel would camouflage the shriveled fruit," he added.

And how about that Thanksgiving standard: the green bean casserole?

"Green beans in a cream sauce would camouflage the green beans because many were dry," said Staib. The mushroom soup and the crispy onion topping would come much later. 

As for the cooking and slicing the turkey, the chef says to relax.

"First, have a big glass of eggnog and relax," he advised. "You shouldn't be afraid of slicing a turkey — it's like a chicken." 

Yeah, a really big chicken.