Just about everyone is familiar with the traditional foods associated with some of the big holidays. For instance, we all know that turkey is on most people’s tables at Thanksgiving, and you can’t escape the smell of barbecue on the Fourth of July. But what about those holidays you don’t usually associate with food, like Presidents Day or Columbus Day? It turns out that there are traditional dishes for these occasions and many more. Some of the foods on these menus are everyday foods that you can prepare in honor of the day; others are foods that you may have never heard of before.
To observe Lincoln’s birthday in February, you could make a dish called burgoo, an assortment of whatever meats and veggies are available. Now, the old recipes from frontier times call for bear meat and squirrel. Thankfully, modern recipes substitute beef, veal, and chicken. What a relief! I can’t imagine risking my life to add bear meat to my meal, and I don’t think I could ever kill a cute little squirrel unless I really had no other choice. Other foods used to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday include cornbread, brown sugar pie, anchovy toast, and pineapple pudding.
Another meal for February is “The Hunt Breakfast”, which can be whipped up to observe Washington’s birthday. This one is definitely not one of those small, simple breakfasts. I guess you wouldn’t have to include everything in the recipe, but here’s what the traditional meal includes: one or two types of game bird, a ham, fish, biscuits, grits, two or three sweets, sausage, apple rings, herbed eggs, chicken orange puff, orange sauces, light wings, butter, honey, and coffee. What a feast!
Everyone associates Saint Patrick’s Day with the color green and clovers, but what about fish chowder? Maybe you should. It’s one of the foods you could serve for St. Paddy’s Day. Why chowder? Tradition holds that Marching Societies made a practice of serving the dish to parade participants because it’s a filling and tasty way to help keep participants warm. Other Saint Patrick’s Day foods include Indian pudding, baked beans, oatmeal bread, Irish stew (consisting of lamb shoulder, potatoes, sliced onions, carrots, turnips and green veggies), and jellied Irish coffee.
Finally, we arrive at Columbus Day. Many Italian, Spanish, and West Indian dishes can be used to celebrate this day. They include eggplant casserole, pasta sauce of chicken livers and pepperoni, chicken with pineapple, rum salad dressing, chicken banana soup, and fish fillets with peanuts.
If you’re one of those people who likes cooking for special occasions, you can add these holidays to your culinary calendar. Even if you aren’t planning to cook anything special for St. Patrick’s Day or Columbus Day, these foods seem like a good way to add some variety to your menus on any day of the year.
Source: Huntley, Suzanne. The Year-Round Holiday Cookbook. New York: Atheneum, 1969.