The Thanksgiving Meal Today and Tomorrow

Nov 22, 2011

For many Kentuckians, preparations are already underway for a big Thanksgiving dinner.  The traditional feast is woven into the fabric of this country.  But, that’s not to say there can’t be some tweaking of traditions.  A room full of ‘white coated’ and ‘hats on’ culinary students were prepping for the day’s work in a food lab at Sullivan University in Lexington recently.  It was their last chance before Thanksgiving break.

Jessica Johnson is busy with a hand held mixer, whisking it around a bowl..

“People have gotten lazier…they’ve gotten more interested in more high tech stuff that…not very many people are interested in just sitting down and cooking a dinner, because it takes too long and they would rather be doing something else..but,  I think the good thing about Thanksgiving is that people like to keep hold of that tradition and people actually like to just cook together with their families or they just want to cook and eat with their families,” said Johnson.

Chef Bill Hallman has been an instructor at Sullivan since the culinary program began six years ago.  The Chef predicts much of the Thanksgiving feast will remain intact for decades to come.  The biggest changes, Hallman adds, come as families, and their traditions,  change.

“We have what we grew up on but as we marry and integrate new members into our family.. they bring on new dishes so my wife has a dish that she likes so I have to prepare it every Thanksgiving because that’s what her mother made here so I have to make sure she has that,” added Hallman.

Near the multi-stove top, as a chicken breast sizzles, cooking student Larry Murray is busily at the chopping board.  Murray is a veteran of the catering business and has sometimes cooked Thanksgiving meals for as many as 150 clients.  He’s in culinary school, he says, to ‘get rid of all my bad habits.”  Increasingly, Murray suspects ‘already prepared’ meals will find their way onto Thanksgiving tables.

“A lot of people are all of sudden so quick and they want something quick and prepared for them rather than spending all day preparing stuff for themselves….so you can find a lot more businesses to changing everything prepared,” said Murray.

Sullivan Chef David Walls is a 40 year veteran of food preparation.  As far as the basics of a thanksgiving feast, such as the meats served, Walls says they’re changing too.

“You might have an ethnic dish, some beef out there…pork..goat …everything is changing..because we’ve got to have something for everyone that’s the type…I think the aspect of the Thanksgiving is still pretty prevalent but we’re seeing it evolve and change,” said Walls.

Libby Allen has been an instructor with the culinary program at Sullivan University since its inception in Lexington.  Allen concludes a lot of wh  at makes Thanksgiving a major national holiday will remain with us for a long time.

“I think tradition is gonna stay with Thanksgiving specifically… because of the ties that we put emotionally and traditionally with that,” added Allen.

Interestingly enough, Allen adds, Thanksgiving is a tradition that has a special appeal for immigrants.  She knows of a Bosnian family who want to immerse themselves in the American way.  They’re not fans of turkey, but on Thanksgiving, Allen says the Bosnians will cook the native American bird and serve it will all the trimmings.   It’s a tradition they’ll share with millions of Kentuckians come Thursday.