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One-hour Thanksgiving dinner

From Academic Kids

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A one-hour Thanksgiving dinner is the practice of preparing a complete Thanksgiving dinner (often with convenience foods, as depicted in Norman Rockwell's 1943 Freedom From Want Thanksgiving dinner depiction), in one hour of time for a small family or group of 4-8 people, assuming the turkey breast is thawed. The use of readily off the shelf items commonly found in U.S. supermarkets allows for the meal to not only be prepared in a short time, but at a minimal cost, by someone who is not familiar with cooking.

As will be discussed below, the ideal of a one-hour Thanksgiving can also be achieved by modifying or replacing scratch recipes for time efficiency, though the result will often be less than traditional.

History

The consumerization, commodification, de-localization, and acculturation of foods in North American society has been ongoing since the 1950s. The result is that most Americans, especially youths, rely almost entirely on convenience foods. In addition, a great number of Americans do not use turkey as a regular part of their diet, and therefore find the process of roasting a whole turkey to be an imposing one at best.

The development of convenience foods incorporated into the North American diet and supermarket shelves became so wide spread that by the late 1990s they could be used to convincingly replace entirely the Thanksgiving dinner. Most Americans do incorporate convenience foods to some degree, but typically do not create the entire meal from them.

TV chef Rachael Ray, known for her extremely popular "30 Minute Meals" show devoted to quick meals and convenience cooking, did a special presentation on the Food Network in November 2004 called "Thanksgiving in 60". Dishes made included individually portioned stuffed turkey breasts and a quick pumpkin soup. Ray's approach differs from the convenience-food approach in that she tends to do more from-scratch preparation, cutting use of prepackaged foods to a minimum (such as use of frozen vegetables and stuffing mix, but not, say, precooked turkey or prepared meal courses); it also allows for more creativity, though as mentioned above the resulting meal is likely to come up lacking for those not prepared for a "nontraditional" approach to what is for many a highly codified and ritualized meal.

Costs and implications

Convenience foods have become so entrenched and available in North America that entire feasts can be prepared from them. Thanksgiving, the quintessential American "banquet" meal, something that home cooks tend to aspire to, a holiday which is only celebrated officially in the U.S. (4th Thursday in November), Argentina (same as Brazil's since the 1990s), Canada (second Monday in October), Japan (Kinro-Kansha-no-hi November 23), Liberia, and Korea (Ch'usok), can be duplicated entirely with prepared foods for about the same cost as two large pizzas. One should note that Thanksgiving is celebrated differently in the Americas than in Asia.

The implications to the American-Macro culture is astounding and indicates an even greater reliance of the culture on convenience foods and is hard for many to take. Even more astounding is that in many urban areas some families will rely completely on fast food? In 2003, at least one national fast food chain was selling deep fried whole turkey in November, or use even easier to prepare convenience foods such as TV dinners for Thanksgiving dinners.

Modern U.S. young adults, especially college students who for various reasons can not travel home for the holiday, typically are not familiar with cooking their own food as a result of fast food restaurants and convenience foods. Young adults, separated by distance from their extended families, in the US may be tempted into purchasing expensive precooked Thanksgiving dinners or going to restaurants such as Denny's on Thanksgiving, both further signs of dependence on the food processing and restaurant industries. Convenience foods created the situation and can be used to correct this to some extent by creating the image of a home-cooked meal, which normally would take hours to prepare. Inexpensive frozen pre-cooked whole turkey breasts became widely available in the late 1990s allowing a Thanksgiving dinner consisting completely of convenience food.

As of 2003, the cost of such a dinner (for 6-8 people) is about $20, less money than it takes to feed the same amount of people pizza. Likewise if the same number of people would go to a Denny's restaurant on Thanksgiving it would cost more than preparing this.

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