11 Tasty Regional Thanksgiving Food Words
By Angela Tung
There's no lack of fun Thanksgiving food words out there. There’s turducken, a linguistic and literal mash of a turkey, duck, and chicken, as well as its British counterpart, the gooducken, where a goose replaces the turkey. For dessert, there’s the cherpumple, one giant pie consisting of three regular ones: cherry, pumpkin, and apple.
But let’s not forget regional food words that have been around a lot longer than these Frankensteinian concoctions. Here are 11 to whet your appetite.
Shake things up this Thanksgiving by saying “pass the goozlum” when you want the gravy. The term seems to come from the Pacific Northwest (specifically “logger talk”), according to the Dictionary of American Regional English, and may also refer to syrup for pancakes, at least when used in Nebraska.
As for how goozlum could come to mean “gravy” or “syrup”: World Wide Words says goozlum also refers to the throat or guzzle, and that a variant, alamagoozlum, is a blend of “à la (as in à la mode) and goozlum, with a ma thrown in to make it bounce better in the mouth.” In addition to syrup, alamagoozlum is a cocktail made with “Chartreuse, gin, Jamaican rum, orange curaçao, egg whites, Angostura bitters, and a big dollop of syrup.”
You know how the Thanksgiving wishbone tradition works: make a wish and pull, and whoever's left with the bigger piece will have their wish granted. But did you know that in the southern and south midland United States, the wishbone is often called a pully-bone (or pulley-bone)? As Bill Neal writes in Southern Cooking: “Then, and always, cut the bird into nine pieces, that is, with a wishbone—southerners call it the ‘pulley-bone.’” Across the pond, it’s called a merrythought, coming from the same tradition (which, by the way, originated with an ancient Italian civilization).
3., 4., and 5. Stuffing, Dressing, and Filling
It's the age-old Thanksgiving dinner debate: What do you call the stuff inside the turkey (which may or may not have been cooked in the bird)? The generally accepted difference between stuffing and dressing is that the former is cooked inside the cavity of the turkey, while the latter is prepared separately.
However, others say the difference is more regional. For instance, writer Michelle Darrisaw says she grew up in Georgia referring to it as dressing, regardless of how it was prepared, and also claims that “most residents below the Mason-Dixon Line and in the Midwest would agree, even when it is cooked stuffed inside the turkey.” The term stuffing seems to be more popular in the north, northeast, and western parts of the U.S.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvanians seem to have their own term. Last Thanksgiving, the AP Stylebook put out this helpful tweet about the difference between stuffing and dressing, to which a journalist in Philadelphia responded that in his area, it's referred to as “filling.”
Different kinds of stuffing (or dressing or filling) abound across the U.S. In southern states, cornbread instead of white bread may be used. In New England, you might enjoy oyster stuffing, while in other northeast states, sausage stuffing could be on the table. Depending where you are in Minnesota, your stuffing might be rice- rather than bread-based.
Kishke, according to The Nosher, is a stuffing with Jewish origins. It comes from the Yiddish word for “intestine,” and is “somewhat like paprika-spiced Thanksgiving stuffing packed inside of cow intestine, or more often today, in synthetic inedible casing.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), kishke is also slang for the guts or belly: “I laughed until my kishkes were sore.”
7. Funeral Potatoes
Not just for funerals anymore! This cheesy, carby casserole—“a classic Mormon Thanksgiving dish,” according to Matador—probably got its name from being an oft-served comfort food for those grieving. The dish is everywhere in Utah, and it’s also popular in western U.S. states like Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona, as well as Texas.
8. Frog Eye Salad
Despite what its name might imply, frog eye salad—a favorite in the Rocky Mountain states—doesn’t contain frog eyes. Its ingredients include a kind of small pasta, such as acini di pepe (which has a rather amphibian ocular resemblance, leading to one theory about the source of the dish’s name), canned fruit, whipped cream, and egg custard. The resulting pudding-like concoction is then topped with marshmallows and shredded coconut, and served as either a dessert or sweet side.
9. Hasty Pudding
More than just a club at Harvard, hasty pudding is a popular Thanksgiving dessert in New England. According to Eater, colonial settlers in America put their own spin on this originally British dish, swapping out flour for ground corn and later adding sugar, molasses, raisins, and spices for sweetness and flavor. The dish’s name comes from the idea of making a pudding “in haste,” or quickly, at least compared to other puddings of the day. An obsolete name for the dish is “Indian pudding,” named for the ground corn or cornmeal the settlers had dubbed “Indian flour,” according to New England Today.
10. Derby Pie
Named for Kentucky's famous horse race, Derby pie is a pecan variety with bourbon and chocolate chips. Don’t confuse that dish with the trademarked treat “Derby-Pie,” made by Kern’s Kitchen in Louisville, whose recipe doesn’t include bourbon.
11. Chess Pie
While its ingredients are simple (butter, sugar, flour or cornmeal, and maybe a spoonful of vinegar), the origins of the chess pie's name are not.
There are several theories as to where the moniker of this Southern dessert (also popular in Appalachia and some areas in the Midwest) comes from, according to Food52. One is that chess is an alteration of cheese, as in the cheese pies the British and colonial settlers made, with cheese switched out for butter. The second is that it comes from chest pie, referring to an old-timey storage unit. Yet another theory is that one day a waitress, upon being asked what pie was on the menu, replied in a Southern accent, “Jes' pie.”