It is often assumed that today’s Thanksgiving menu originated in an event commonly referred to as the “first Thanksgiving.” There is indeed evidence of a meal shared between Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth colony (in what is now Massachusetts) and local Wampanoag Indians in late 1621. But there is no indication that turkey was served. For meat, the Wampanoag brought deer, and the Pilgrims provided wild “fowl.” Strictly speaking, that “fowl” could have been turkeys, which were native to the area, but historians think it was probably ducks or geese.
For Thanksgiving in the United States, turkey is traditionally served stuffed or with dressing (on the side), with cranberry sauce and gravy. Common complementary dishes include mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, green beans, squash, and sweet potatoes. Pie is the usual dessert, especially those made from pumpkins, apples, or pecans.
Turkeys are usually baked or roasted in an oven for several hours, often while the cook prepares the remainder of the meal. Sometimes, a turkey is brined before roasting to enhance flavor and moisture content. This is done because the dark meat requires a higher temperature to denature all of the myoglobin pigment than the white meat (very low in myoglobin) so that fully cooking the dark meat tends to dry out the breast. Brining makes it possible to fully cook the dark meat without drying the breast meat.
According to britannica.com