It happens every year. The editor of an obscure hometown newspaper somewhere comes up with a bright idea: Why not do a Thanksgiving story poking a little fun at American communities with names that sound like traditional Thanksgiving foods? Then assign the paper’s most junior reporter to cover it. I frequently end up taking their calls.
Here in western Pennsylvania, those young reporters can find something of a bonanza. In addition to our own Cranberry Township in Butler County, there’s another municipality, by the same name, in neighboring Venango County. So at least one of them is bound to figure prominently into their stories. And it’s for a legitimate reason. The namesake of both Cranberry Townships is, in fact, the fruit of the very same cranberry which gets served up as a relish on Thanksgiving day.
That’s not the normal way communities get named in these parts. Here in southern Butler County, most communities take their names from families with large local land holdings – Adams, Marshall, Jackson, Clinton, Jefferson, Evans, and so on. But back in 1804, when the municipal lines here were being drawn, no single property owner dominated the rural landscape we now know as Cranberry Township. However, the wild cranberries which grew along Brush Creek, attracting deer as well as deer hunters from nearby Indian settlements, were prominent features at the time, and ultimately the source of its name.
Celebrations of thanksgiving that follow each harvest season have taken place since ancient times. While the holiday as we know it today is rooted in English tradition from the 16th century, the date on which Americans mark their Thanksgiving wasn’t actually fixed until 1941. At the same time, just as its calendar date tended to wander, so too did the holiday’s preferred menu items – changes in taste which continue evolving, even to the present day.
Still, there are favorites, as well as communities whose names evoke those preferred dishes. For example, there’s Turkey, Texas, in the Lone Star State’s panhandle, presumably named for the wild turkeys that roost there. Arizona’s Yuma County includes the community of Roll. Pie Town, New Mexico, along U.S. 60, is the home of the famous Pie Town Café, which has been featured on the Food Network. Then there’s Spuds, Florida; Corn, Oklahoma, Sandwich, Massachusetts, Two Egg, Florida, Toast, North Carolina, and even a Yum Yum, Tennessee.
But America’s tastes keep advancing. So someday Chicken, Alaska; Pig, Kentucky; Rabbit Hash, Kentucky and even Elephant Butte, New Mexico may find themselves prominently featured in those newspaper stories as well.
Until then, happy Thanksgiving!
I’d love hearing your tasteful comments as well. You can reach me at Jerry.Andree@cranberrytownship.org