How Market Thanksgiving comes together


TPN file photo

Market Thanksgiving is an annual Pitt tradition held before Thanksgiving break.

By Rebecca Johnson, Staff Writer

For Madison Frank, a senior biology major, Market Thanksgiving brings a piece of home to Towers and a welcome reprieve from a hectic course load.

“It’s really like a taste of home throughout the whole semester when I’m eating the same things every day,” Frank said. “It gives me the motivation to get through the rest of the semester to get to go home and spend time with my family.”

Market Thanksgiving and Perchgiving are annual Pitt traditions in which an estimated 6,000 students combined feast on Thanksgiving staples including roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie, according to Sean Minahan, director of culinary for Pitt Dining. Perchgiving took place on Thursday, and Market Thanksgiving is scheduled for Wednesday.

Minahan said the meal’s contents are decided based on the chefs’ personal recipes they decide to share with students.

“They all have their recipes and we go through the traditional classics. We don’t want to recreate the wheel when it comes to doing Thanksgiving dinner,” Minahan said.

Market Thanksgiving also includes a vegan menu as well as Kosher and Halal options. The vegan menu will feature tofurkey and gravy, vegan mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, vegan brownies and cranberry sauce. Caitlin Courtney, the production manager for Market Central, said Market Thanksgiving tries to accommodate religious and dietary restrictions to the best of their ability.

“We still offer a Simple Servings menu that is as close as possible to the menu we’re serving everywhere else,” Courtney said.

The preparations for such a large-scale event begin weeks in advance, according to Courtney. This planning requires finding distributors who can provide enough food for the dinner — 2,000 pounds of turkey, 40 cases of sweet potatoes and 30 cases of mashed potatoes to be exact.

This quantity of food might seem extensive, but Michael Zanie, resident district manager at Sodexo, said the dining staff estimates that the average student will consume around 2.2 pounds of food. He attributes this large amount to the importance of the holiday season.

“Thanksgiving has always been a special meal,” Zanie said. “This is a community event for people to get together before they have to buckle down and worry about being a student.”


Beyond the food, there is another tradition associated with Market Thanksgiving and Perchgiving — long lines. These lines persist, despite the 1,000 available seats in Market and 265 at the Perch. Dana Bernhard, a first-year neuroscience major, who attended her first Perchgiving last week, advises other students to come early if they want to avoid the crowd, something she said she luckily did herself unintentionally.

“I didn’t even know it was Perchgiving. I was by myself, and it was like God sent me a gift. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen,” Bernhard said. “There was no line because I went right at 4 o’clock. At 6, it wrapped around the door. I 100% recommend Perchgiving, but go at 4 o’clock.”

Zanie said his staff views long lines as a testament to the success of its dinner, but will try to speed up the lines as quickly as possible.

“With this number of students there’s always going to be a line. We look at that as a good thing,” Zanie said. “We use every inch of the space that we possibly can. For example, the 360 station will be capable of serving 1,000 people an hour. But, we want to make sure that the product is fresh, hot and safe.”

Bernard said she recommends Perchgiving and Market Thanksgiving because of the high caliber of the food.

“The food was amazing, and I was so happy that I went,” Bernard said. “It is almost better than the Thanksgiving food I get at home.”

Christine Durmis, a first-year nursing major, also attended Perchgiving and said she was impressed by the food and actually enjoyed the crowd.

“I thought that it was really enjoyable and it was cool to see how many people were there and how crowded it was,” Durmis said. “The food was really good and the quality was much higher than the normal stuff.”

While Zanie said he is pleased that Market Thanksgiving is so popular among students, he disagrees that the quality is greater than the average day at Market.

“I think it’s expectations and perspectives,” Zanie said. “Everyone knows what Thanksgiving is supposed to look like. It’s less obvious what everything else is supposed to look like.”

But, Zanie added that this dinner is a particularly festive occasion for his staff.

“For us, we want to make it a fun experience for everybody. It’s really a time for this family to get together,” Zanie said.