For Americans, Thanksgiving is a holiday that evokes family, a generously proportioned meal full of the flavours and colours of autumn, and an afternoon football match.
On Friday 22 November, a little ahead of the official date, the American members of staff shared some of the culinary traditions of Thanksgiving with their ITER colleagues. In a cafeteria festooned with flags and photographs and cheered by the music of the ITER band, the ITER community tasted corn chowder, turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and apple or pumpkin pie.
Two distinguished guests joined the festivities: US Consul Diane Kelly from Marseille, and Ed Synakowski, Vice Chair of the ITER Council and Associate Director for Fusion Energy Sciences at the Department of Energy (Office of Science). As a commemorative slideshow played in the background, both had words to share on the legacy of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, America’s 35th President assassinated 50 years earlier on 22 November 1963.
Celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving traces its origins back to the difficult conditions of the early settlers to the northeast coast of the United States. After a gruelling ocean crossing, the small group of Pilgrims that established the Plymouth colony (now Massachusetts) had little time to prepare for the harsh winter in New England and no knowledge of local fauna and flora. Half of the settlers died during the first winter.
In the spring, the early settlers were taught to fish and hunt locally as well as grow corn and distinguish edible plants from poisonous ones by a Native American. To celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest and to give thanks for assistance received, the settlers invited their Native American allies to a feast that lasted three days.
The modern-day Thanksgiving holiday has evolved considerably from its humble beginnings. Celebrated every year since President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in 1863, some 51 million turkeys (approximately one for every six people) are consumed every year on this day, and countless bushels of sweet potatoes, green beans and cranberries.
Click here to view the photo gallery of the US Day at ITER.