Posts Tagged ‘thanksgiving’

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. On this occasion I am at home celebrating with only my husband. Stay safe and well!


Cornucopia, horn of plenty Cornucopia, horn of plenty

Original Article:



It’s that time of year when children make cardboard turkeys and draw the Mayflower, while we prepare to fill our tables with stuffing and pumpkin pie the way most of us imagine the Pilgrims did at the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

But there’s just one catch, according to archaeologists at the Florida Museum of Natural History: The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving wasn’t the first.

The nation’s real first Thanksgiving took place more than 50 years earlier near the Matanzas River in St. Augustine, Florida, when Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and 800 soldiers, sailors and settlers joined local Native Americans in a feast that followed a Mass of Thanksgiving, according to Kathleen Deagan, distinguished research curator emerita of historical archaeology at the museum, located on the University of Florida campus.

Instead of flat-top hats and oversized buckles, conquistadors wore…

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On this day ten years ago…it was Thanksgiving day, 2009
via Thansksgiving Feast-Ancient Tradition

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game of thrones  (Credit: HBO/Helen Sloan)

game of thrones
(Credit: HBO/Helen Sloan)

Original Article:



Give thanks that “Red Deer testicles” and “living eels in roasted pig” aren’t on the menu today.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, blessedly devoid of spirituality and denominational religion, just piles of food, family and football (followed by napping). But if the idea of another turkey, flanked by cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, sounds ho-hum, consider what constituted the feasts of yore. Our ancestors used to eat some pretty crazy shit. It’s only a matter of time before a renegade chef opens a pop-up medieval food truck. But whether hipster consumers of wagyu and kale tacos are ready for Roasted Swan Legs, Deer Antler Soup and Porpoise in Aspic is a fair question.

What are the socio-political repercussions of eating Grilled Womb (which is unlikely to appear on menus in red states, at least not in the months leading up to an election)? Even a passionate carnivore like Anthony Bourdain might have some moral qualms about dipping into a plate of Living Eels in a Roasted Pig. If you’ve got leftover deer testicles in the back of your fridge, then maybe it’s time to inject a bit of the Middle Ages into your Thanksgiving menu.

Yes, some six centuries ago, these dishes were considered delicacies worth preserving in medieval cookbooks. Doubtless grandmothers, huddled around their soot-blackened kitchens, perhaps cackling maniacally out of their whisker-strewn maws, would lovingly instruct their granddaughters in the finer methods of preparing Roast Cat, or a cauldron full of boiling Garbage (the evocative appellation for chicken gizzard stew).

Curious as to what was on the menu during those pesky Bubonic Plague epidemics, I began to research medieval and Renaissance cooking. It all began with a nice little book review assignment. I was to review “The Medieval Cookbook” by Maggie Black (Getty Publications, 2012) for the academic journal Gastronomica. The book takes authentic medieval recipes and updates them for the modern kitchen. The book is a fine one, but it did not satisfy my curiosity. To be frank, it was too normal. OK, even Getty Publications can’t expect Mary Jane from Minnesota to prepare Roasted Peacock. And so, the book contains recipes that are as close to what we, today, consider normal as possible. Sure, there are pottages (the old-fashioned word for a thick soup), buknades (an even thicker pottage, more like a stew), piment (spiced, sweetened wine), and civey (uh…also a stew). Some dishes and spice combos from the Middle Ages would be most welcome in the modern kitchen, and their preparation will almost certainly not result in incarceration (the same cannot be said for some of our other examples—I’m looking at you, Grilled Womb). Saffron and ginger play a far more central role in spicing medieval savory dishes than we would consider today, outside of Asian cuisine. Much of this was down to masking the taste of not-so-fresh meat, necessary before the invention of the Frigidaire. Likewise mace, cardamom, cinnamon and sugar were common additions to savory main courses, sweetness being broadly valued over other flavors. But two medieval staple spice mixes would find a home in any creative kitchen. Powder Forte is a mixture of ground cumin, black pepper and ginger, while Powder Douce combines ground coriander, cinnamon and brown sugar. Aside from unusual terms for things, many of the recipes from “The Medieval Cookbook” sound, well, normal. I mean, I can’t get too excited about cheese lasagna and roast pork, both of which are featured. I’m sure they are perfectly good, but when dipping into the foods of an exotic age, and in looking for historically accurate ways to spice up my Thanksgiving, I was hoping for more shock value.

Beware what you wish for. My further research uncovered all manner of dishes that are either unadvisable, or in some cases illegal, to prepare today. Hold onto your dormouse stew…

Before we begin, a word about diet in the pre-modern period. There was a widely accepted belief in pre-modern Europe that you had to eat according to the social class into which you were born. Eating above (or below) your station would make you ill, or even kill you. Aristocrats consumed creatures and vegetables associated with the air, the sky, lightness and whiteness. Their preferred proteins were fowl and white-fleshed fish. Nobles drank white wine, ate white bread and tree-growing fruit, chose veggies that grew aboveground, avoided root vegetables. Peasants, by contrast, ate things that were dark in color and associated with the earth: black bread (the old term for rye), black wine (the old term for red), root vegetables, beans, red meat, shellfish, porridges and stews thickened with grains.

I’d take the peasant menu any day. While there is, of course, no genetic reason why Count von Frupingstein should only eat roasted swan legs and figs, while Fritz the Goat-Herd must dine on roast potatoes and mutton, there may have been a biological reason why the nobility stuck to its airy, white diet. If generations ate only within their dictated confines, then the aristocrats might have lost their enzymes to break down red meat, and therefore might well have felt ill, if they consumed what they were not used to. For the peasants, the question would be less about illness and more about cost. White wine was far more expensive than red, pure white bread more expensive than rye, and nice white fish pricier than lobster, mussels and eel. Eel, in fact, appears in medieval cooking with a frequency alarming to us moderns, because it was an inexpensive source of good protein. As a stock fish, eel could be farmed, and was often used in stews or other dishes in place of beef, which was pricey and harder to come by. Eel can be delicious when properly prepared (for example, in my favorite Japanese dish, unagi), but how about a platter of Living Eels in a Roast Pig? I’m not sure if that would be more traumatic for the diner or the eels, but either way, I’d steer clear of it.

Unsurprisingly, it was the dishes of the aristocracy that were the most bizarre and fanciful, part nourishment and part entertainment. Medieval banquets were long-form affairs (the predecessors of the Slow Food Movement), often hours long. You would be given a number of courses relative to your social status, and might have to sit and watch the king eat his 13th exotic plate, while you’d only be given two. While writing a book on the great Flemish painter Jan van Eyck, I learned that van Eyck was responsible for the design of banquets at the 15th century court of Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, creating dishes that were first thought of in terms of drama and aesthetics, with taste being a secondary concern. On the other hand, peasant food, which inevitably sounds far more appetizing, was about making the most of what was available, without the least concern for presentation. Peasants were satisfied with soups and stews, often thickened with grain and including whatever was available, from vegetables to scraps of meat: one-pot dishes that could gently bubble in a cauldron for hours on end, while a family went about their daily labors. Aristocrats, on the other hand, employed full-time cooks as well as occasional artists, like van Eyck, who would collaborate in the design of elaborate feasts to awe and delight important guests. Exotic ingredients and a heavy hand with spices were signs of wealth and erudition. Minimalist cooking it ain’t. If you could use 10 spices, why, that was five times better than using two. Ostentatious displays of wealth seem to have been prized over deliciousness. This makes reading about medieval cooking a good deal more fun than eating it.

For many, the thought of medieval dining recalls “four and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie,” from the popular 18th century English nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence.” Fowl baked in a pie (with their feathers removed, but not deboned) was indeed a common banquet recipe. But according to the nursery rhyme, “When the pie was opened/The birds began to sing/Wasn’t that a dainty dish/To set before a king?” This, too, is on the money. Jan van Eyck was responsible for the design of a pie that housed a compartment for a live dove to hole up, so that the dove would fly out when the pie was (carefully) sliced open. The nursery rhyme describes a real recipe. You can imagine the macabre fun at medieval dinner parties, when live birds escape from their lightly browned crusty coffins, just before you slice the cooked portion of the pie and serve the birds’ less-fortunate cousins. In fact, the word “coffin” appears in medieval recipes as a synonym for pie crust. As Gervase Markham wrote in “The English Hous-wife” (1615): “that it may stand well for rising, your coffin must ever be deep.” That could mean so many things … This morbid undertone may be found throughout medieval cookery. Consider that the original lyrics for “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” in the 1740 first edition, read: “Sing a Song of Sixpence/A bagful of Rye/Four and twenty Naughty Boys/Baked in a Pye.” Hmm. There’s nothing quite so creepy as a traditional nursery rhyme, the lyrics of which we sing to sleepy babies, without stopping to think what we are saying. I mean, “Rock-a-bye baby on a tree top/When the wind blows the cradle will rock/When the bough breaks the cradle will fall/And down will come baby, cradle and all.” Huh? WTF?!

Alas, the juxtaposition of cooked and living critters was considered enormously diverting by our ancestors. One book in particular rides the thin line between magic tricks and dinner (as well as nourishment and horrible taste). Giambattista della Porta’s 1660 tome, “Magia Naturalis (The Secrets of Nature)” contains a number of highly disconcerting recipes that, we can only hope, were largely theoretical. I quote from his description under the heading “To Cook a Live Goose” (skip this paragraph if you are faint of heart, or a member of the ASPCA):

Take the goose, pull off the feathers, make a fire about her, not too close for smoke to choke her, or burn her too soon, not too far off so she may escape. Put small cups of water with salt and honey … also dishes of apple sauce. Baste goose with butter. She will drink water to relieve thirst, eat apples to cleanse and empty her of dung. Keep her head and heart wet with a sponge. When she gets giddy from running and begins to stumble, she is roasted enough. Take her up, set her before the guests; she will cry as you cut off any part and will be almost eaten before she is dead … It is mighty pleasant to behold.

I think that old Giambattista and I have rather different opinions of what is “mighty pleasant to behold,” but reproduce his dish and you’re guaranteed to throw a Thanksgiving feast that your guests will remember forever. Perhaps waking up to the thought in a cold sweat, or rocking slowly back and forth on a therapist’s couch while recalling it. And to think of the fuss folks make these days about foie gras …

Giambattista was also fond of illusionism, and offers us a recipe for a Roasted Peacock that looks alive (he’s assuming that this is somehow a bonus), and also appears to breathe fire.

Kill a peacock, either by thrusting a quill into his brain from above, or else cut his throat, as you do for young kids [author’s note: I’m hoping that Giambattista meant baby goats], that the blood may come forth. Then cut his skin gently from his throat unto his tail and, being cut, pull it off with his feathers from his whole body to his head. Cut off that with the skin and legs, and keep it. Roast the peacock on a spit. His body being stuffed with spices and sweet herbs, sticking first cloves on his breast, and wrapping his neck in a white linen cloth. Wet it always with water, that it may never dry. When the peacock is roasted, and taken from the spit, put him into his own skin again, and that he may seem to stand upon his feet, you shall thrust small iron wires, made on purpose, through his legs, and set fast on a board, that they may not be discerned, and through his body to his head and tail. Some put camphire [a fragrant wood from which henna is derived] in his mouth, and when he is set upon the table, they cast in fire. Platina shows that the same may be done with pheasants, geese, capons, and other birds. And we observe these things among our guests.

I also found a reference to the aforementioned Living Eels in a Roasted Pig (in a 1598 book by presumed mental patient Frantz de Rontzier), but have not located the recipe…as you may be relieved to hear.

One thing you’ll find about reading medieval cookbooks is that our ancestors were without spell-check. Some of the recipes read as if someone decided against typing, and instead just banged his head on the keyboard. “Hagws of a schepe” is sheep stomach pudding—this becomes clearer if you sound out the words (“haggis of a sheep”). As spelling was not codified until after the 18th century, it’s a good bet to read medieval texts aloud, in order to understand what the heck they’re talking about. Another mouthful of a recipe, the preparation of which is certainly illegal and likely against the Geneva Convention, is “Purpays yn galanteyn.” That’s right, “porpoise in aspic.” If you read this aloud, you just might be able to follow it:

Take purpays: do away the skyn; cutt hit yn smal lechys no more then a fynger, or les. Take bred drawen wyth red wyne; put therto powder of canell, powdyr of pepyr. Boil hit; seson hit up with powder of gynger, venegre, & salt.

The recipes are Spartan, to say the least, and require much imagination to see how they come together, although they do tend to be explicit about how to kill the main ingredient. Take this one, for Jungen hirs horn, or Deer Antler Soup:

If you wish to prepare a good meal, take the antlers of a young stag, singe them until they are clean, boil them, chop them up, and add wine, honey, and gingerbread, and boil all the ingredients. Only the antler extract is important, and that is good.

Julia Child, eat your heart out. I’m also particularly partial to the last line of this recipe. From the original medieval German, I can’t tell if “that is good” is in praise of the dish, or a sigh of relief for the fact that “only the antler extract is important.”

Another dish I found, but without a recipe, comes from a 1370 book called Viandier of Taillevent: Red Deer Testicles in Hunting Season. Were you to try to prepare this at home, delicious as it sounds, I’m not sure where I’d suggest you shop for ingredients. Does Trader Joe’s have a testicles aisle?

Finally, there are also recipes that, while they may not involve hard-to-come-by ingredients, we might wish that they were harder to come by. Take Rupert de Nola’s 1529 recipe, from “Libro de Cozina,” for…oh dear, I can’t believe I’m writing this… Roasted Cat.

Take a cat that should be plump and cut its throat, and once it is dead cut off its head, and throw it away, for this is not to be eaten; for it is said that he who eats the brains will lose his own sense and judgment. Then skin it very cleanly, and open it and clean it well, and then wrap it in a clean linen cloth and bury it in the earth, where it should remain for a day and a night. Then take it out and put it on a spit and roast it over the fire, and when beginning to roast, baste it with good garlic and oil, and when you are finished basting it, beat it well with a green branch; and this should be done until it is well roasted, basting and beating. And when it is roasted, carve it as if it were rabbit or kid [author’s note: once more, I’m hoping that Rupert de Nola refers to a baby goat not…well, you know…] and put it on a large plate. Take the garlic with oil mixed with good broth, so that it is coarse, and pour it over the cat, and you can eat it, for it is a good dish.

I like how it is dis-recommended to eat the cat’s head, but the rest makes for fine dining, particularly after it’s been buried underground for 24 hours. (Is that for flavor?) How about beating the roast with a green branch? I don’t remember any mention of that in “Jacques Pepin’s Cooking Techniques.”

I suppose we can’t blame our ancestors for eating what was available, when a quick trip to Whole Foods was not an option. Whether these recipes-by-necessity tasted good is another matter. Logic and morality have kept me from testing the majority of them. I have tried out some medieval recipes, those that did not involve cats, living eels or swan legs. They tend to be too sweet for modern tastes, and too muddled: that habit of throwing in more spices for the sake of show means that the main ingredients of a dish are hardly discernible. But of those I’ve tried, the peasant foods are the best, and the simplest: braised meat, stews, beans, potatoes, rye bread and red wine. The aristocracy can keep their recipes, like To Make a Chicken Sing When It is Dead and Roasted—a recipe that involves mercury, by the way, which is not part of the Food Pyramid.

Maybe turkey and cranberry sauce is for the best, after all …

Selected Bibliography

Apicius “The Roman Cookery Book” (6th century)

Black, Maggie “The Medieval Cookbook” Getty Publications, 2012

De Nola, Ruperto “Libro de Cozina” (1529)

Markham, Gervase “The English Hous-wife” (1615)

Scully, Terence “The Vivendier” (Devon: Prospect Books, 1997)

Porta, Giambattista and Alessio Piemontese, “Magia Naturalis (Secrets of Nature,” 1660)

“The Viandier of Taillevent” (1370)

“The Ambras Recipe” (Collection of Cod. Vind. 5486)

(“Harleian MS 279,” 15th century)

(“MS Beinecke 163,” 15th century)

(“Curye on Inglysch,” 14th century)



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Cornucopia, horn of plenty

Cornucopia, horn of plenty

Original Article:




It’s that time of year when children make cardboard turkeys and draw the Mayflower, while we prepare to fill our tables with stuffing and pumpkin pie the way most of us imagine the Pilgrims did at the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

But there’s just one catch, according to archaeologists at the Florida Museum of Natural History: The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving wasn’t the first.

The nation’s real first Thanksgiving took place more than 50 years earlier near the Matanzas River in St. Augustine, Florida, when Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and 800 soldiers, sailors and settlers joined local Native Americans in a feast that followed a Mass of Thanksgiving, according to Kathleen Deagan, distinguished research curator emerita of historical archaeology at the museum, located on the University of Florida campus.

Instead of flat-top hats and oversized buckles, conquistadors wore armor and colonists dressed in 16th-century Spanish garments. There wasn’t any cranberry sauce or pie — not even turkey. Instead, the meal consisted of an assortment of food, from salted pork and red wine shipped from Spain to yucca from the Caribbean, Deagan said.

“The holiday we celebrate today is really something that was invented in a sense,” she said. “By the time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the people who settled America’s first colony with Menéndez probably had children and grandchildren living there.”

UF retired history professor Michael Gannon wrote in his influential book on the subject that the event “was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land.”

This little-known chapter of history challenges the traditional Thanksgiving story, which reflects an Anglicized version of history and supports America’s colonial origins being viewed as solely, or at least primarily, British, said Gifford Waters, historical archaeology collection manager at the Florida Museum.

“The fact is, the first colony was a melting pot and the cultural interactions of the many groups of people in the colony were much more like the U.S. is today than the British colonies ever were,” Waters said. “I think the true story of the first Thanksgiving is especially important, since there is a growing Hispanic population in the U.S. and the role of the Spanish colony in La Florida is often neglected in the classroom.”

Historical eyewitness accounts describe the first Thanksgiving as a scene marked by diversity, with colonists and local Timucuan people in attendance. More than 400 artifacts left behind by the various cultural groups that made up the first colony are currently on display in the Florida Museum’s exhibit, “First Colony: Our Spanish Origins.”

Waters said the meal probably took place near the mouth of present-day Hospital Creek on the Matanzas River, where today the Mission of Nombre de Dios and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park – the site of Menéndez’ original encampment and the first colony – are located. The feast followed a Thanksgiving Mass, which Deagan said was a common practice of sailors after a tumultuous expedition.

The 68 days that it took Menéndez and his followers to get to Florida’s shore had not been easy. After leaving Spain with eight ships, the group arrived in Florida with only four. Half of the original expedition was lost to hurricanes and other hardships.

Of those who made it to Florida, whether in search of riches and improved social standing or new opportunities like owning land, all were probably thankful to be alive and on dry land, Deagan said.

“A Mass and feast of Thanksgiving was the first thing Menendez did, and he invited all of the local native people who were so curious about them,” she said.

Besides salted pork and red wine, those in attendance ate garbanzo beans, olives and hard sea biscuits. The meal may have also included Caribbean foods that were probably collected when Menéndez stopped to regroup and resupply at San Juan Puerto Rico before continuing to Florida, Deagan said. If the Timucua contributed, it would likely have been with corn, fresh fish, berries or beans, she said.

Archaeologists have not recovered any artifacts or other archaeological data clearly associated with the first Thanksgiving, although they have found remains of the types of food that would have been eaten, Waters said.

“It is very rare to be able to pin down archaeological remains with a specific event, especially something as ephemeral as a single meal,” he said.

Waters said he hopes spreading word about the original Thanksgiving will spark interest in having a more complete understanding of American history.


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From my house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving, even if it’s not your holiday!
Here is a link to information on the first Thanksgiving from food timeline.


Thanks also to all of you who follow my blog,it’s nice to share with you news on a topic I love.

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Topic: Thanksgiving

What Was on the Menu at the First Thanksgiving?

Today, the traditional Thanksgiving dinner includes any number of dishes: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. But if one were to create a historically accurate feast, consisting of only those foods that historians are certain were served at the so-called “first Thanksgiving,” there would be slimmer pickings. “Wildfowl was there. Corn, in grain form for bread or for porridge, was there. Venison was there,” says Kathleen Wall. “These are absolutes.”

Two primary sources—the only surviving documents that reference the meal—confirm that these staples were part of the harvest celebration shared by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony in 1621. Edward Winslow, an English leader who attended, wrote home to a friend:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.”

William Bradford, the governor Winslow mentions, also described the autumn of 1621, adding, “And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.”

But determining what else the colonists and Wampanoag might have eaten at the 17th-century feast takes some digging. To form educated guesses, Wall, a foodways culinarian at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, studies cookbooks and descriptions of gardens from the period, archaeological remains such as pollen samples that might clue her in to what the colonists were growing.

Our discussion begins with the bird. Turkey was not the centerpiece of the meal, as it is today, explains Wall. Though it is possible the colonists and American Indians cooked wild turkey, she suspects that goose or duck was the wildfowl of choice. In her research, she has found that swan and passenger pigeons would have been available as well. “Passenger pigeons—extinct in the wild for over a century now—were so thick in the 1620s, they said you could hear them a quarter-hour before you saw them,” says Wall. “They say a man could shoot at the birds in flight and bring down 200.”

Small birds were often spit-roasted, while larger birds were boiled. “I also think some birds—in a lot of recipes you see this—were boiled first, then roasted to finish them off. Or things are roasted first and then boiled,” says Wall. “The early roasting gives them nicer flavor, sort of caramelizes them on the outside and makes the broth darker.”

It is possible that the birds were stuffed, though probably not with bread. (Bread, made from maize not wheat, was likely a part of the meal, but exactly how it was made is unknown.) The Pilgrims instead stuffed birds with chunks of onion and herbs. “There is a wonderful stuffing for goose in the 17th-century that is just shelled chestnuts,” says Wall. “I am thinking of that right now, and it is sounding very nice.” Since the first Thanksgiving was a three-day celebration, she adds, “I have no doubt whatsoever that birds that are roasted one day, the remains of them are all thrown in a pot and boiled up to make broth the next day. That broth thickened with grain to make a pottage.”

In addition to wildfowl and deer, the colonists and Wampanoag probably ate eels and shellfish, such as lobster, clams and mussels. “They were drying shellfish and smoking other sorts of fish,” says Wall.

According to the culinarian, the Wampanoag, like most eastern woodlands people, had a “varied and extremely good diet.” The forest provided chestnuts, walnuts and beechnuts. “They grew flint corn (multicolored Indian corn), and that was their staple. They grew beans, which they used from when they were small and green until when they were mature,” says Wall. “They also had different sorts of pumpkins or squashes.”

As we are taught in school, the Indians showed the colonists how to plant native crops. “The English colonists plant gardens in March of 1620 and 1621,” says Wall. “We don’t know exactly what’s in those gardens. But in later sources, they talk about turnips, carrots, onions, garlic and pumpkins as the sorts of things that they were growing.”

Of course, to some extent, the exercise of reimagining the spread of food at the 1621 celebration becomes a process of elimination. “You look at what an English celebration in England is at this time. What are the things on the table? You see lots of pies in the first course and in the second course, meat and fish pies. To cook a turkey in a pie was not terribly uncommon,” says Wall. “But it is like, no, the pastry isn’t there.” The colonists did not have butter and wheat flour to make crusts for pies and tarts. (That’s right: No pumpkin pie!) “That is a blank in the table, for an English eye. So what are they putting on instead? I think meat, meat and more meat,” says Wall.

Meat without potatoes, that is. White potatoes, originating in South America, and sweet potatoes, from the Caribbean, had yet to infiltrate North America. Also, there would have been no cranberry sauce. It would be another 50 years before an Englishman wrote about boiling cranberries and sugar into a “Sauce to eat with. . . .Meat.” Says Wall: “If there was beer, there were only a couple of gallons for 150 people for three days.” She thinks that to wash it all down the English and Wampanoag drank water.

All this, naturally, begs a follow-up question. So how did the Thanksgiving menu evolve into what it is today?

Wall explains that the Thanksgiving holiday, as we know it, took root in the mid-19th century. At this time, Edward Winslow’s letter, printed in a pamphlet called Mourt’s Relation, and Governor Bradford’s manuscript, titled Of Plimoth Plantation, were rediscovered and published. Boston clergyman Alexander Young printed Winslow’s letter in his Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, and in the footnotes to the resurrected letter, he somewhat arbitrarily declared the feast the first Thanksgiving. (Wall and others at Plimoth Plantation prefer to call it “the harvest celebration in 1621.”) There was nostalgia for colonial times, and by the 1850s, most states and territories were celebrating Thanksgiving.

Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the popular women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, , a real trendsetter for running a household, was a leading voice in establishing Thanksgiving as an annual event. Beginning in 1827, Hale petitioned 13 presidents, the last of whom was Abraham Lincoln. She pitched her idea to President Lincoln as a way to unite the country in the midst of the Civil War, and, in 1863, he made Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Throughout her campaign, Hale printed Thanksgiving recipes and menus in Godey’s Lady’s Book. She also published close to a dozen cookbooks. “She is really planting this idea in the heads of lots of women that this is something they should want to do,” says Wall. “So when there finally is a national day of Thanksgiving, there is a whole body of women who are ready for it, who know what to do because she told them. A lot of the food that we think of—roast turkey with sage dressing, creamed onions, mashed turnips, even some of the mashed potato dishes, which were kind of exotic then—are there.”

By Megan Gambino
Smithsonian.com, November 21, 2011
smithsonian magazine

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The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...

Image via Wikipedia

Topic Happy Thanksgiving

The original article was first posted on Nov 23, 2010

The poto’s in the link seem to have disappeard so here are several from Historic St Marys to go with the article.

Food designed to fill ‘Colonists’ offer insights on their diet, work required to eat

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!!!!

Joanna Linsley-Poe

Ancient Foods

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Topic: Ancient Feasts

My thoughts:

First Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate this feast of plenty. I am taking time between basting and turning my turkey to post a few thoughts.

Feasting is not new, most if not all cultures in the ancient world had their own feast/ festival days. Most of these days were tied to religion one way or another. In Ancient Egypt there were a number of feasts connected with the Gods and Goddesses. Since the Egyptian life revolved around their religion it is not surprising that feasts days were an important ways to honor and celebrate a good harvest, a plentiful( but not overly so) inundation of the Nile and a good growing season. 

There were of course other reasons for feast days but here I am interested in food and Egypt wasn’t the only culture for whom planting and harvest were important. Any culture in the ancient world, such as those who came out of the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia, ( Babylon,  the Akkadian kingdom, Third Dynasty of Ur, and Assyrian empire, Persia). All had feast days-all had reasons for thanksgiving. We are not alone in this so enjoy the day-your in good company!

I will write in more detail later of these various feasts but right now I have turn my turkey.

Joanna Linsley-Poe

Ancient Foods






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