Thanksgiving Day is one of America's most celebrated holidays with seasonal dishes like roasted or smoked turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Football. Thanksgiving was always a huge feast for my side of the family. We would get together at my Nannie and Papaw's and have a wonderful dinner with roasted turkey, homemade mac 'n cheese and mashed potatoes, lots of fresh vegetables from their garden, and an a variety of tasty desserts. My husband's side of the family always had a big dinner as well. Thanksgiving feasts date back to the first European settlements in America when settlers shared the First Thanksgiving Meal with the Wampanoag Indians.
William Bradford, Plymouth Colony's governor, wrote in his journal (Of Plymouth Plantation) about the fall harvest that year: “there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.” Turkey or no turkey, the attendees most certainly got their fill of meat as the Wampanoag guests arrived with deer in tow. Duck, geese, and swans were possibly consumed as well, since men had gone on a "fowling" mission. Instead of bread-based stuffing, herbs, onions or nuts might have been added to the birds for extra flavor.
The Pilgrims first harvest was plentiful. Likely vegetables would have been onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots, peas, and corn, which would not have been processed and cooked like we do today. Fruits indigenous to the region included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries and, of course cranberries, which Native Americans ate and used as a natural dye.
Culinary historians believe that much of the Thanksgiving meal consisted of seafood. Mussels in particular were abundant in New England and could be easily harvested because they clung to rocks along the shoreline. The colonists occasionally served mussels with curds, a dairy product with a similar consistency to cottage cheese. Lobster, bass, clams and oysters might also have been part of the feast.
One of my absolute favorite pies is Pumpkin Pie. Pumpkins and other squashes were readily available but without butter and wheat flour, pie crust could not be made. Plus, ovens had not yet been constructed for baking. But, there are accounts of the settlers hollowing out pumpkins and filling them with milk, honey, and spices - making a custard and roasting the pumpkins in the hot ashes. How is that for a roasted pumpkin pie?!
Although Thanksgiving celebrations date back to the first European settlements in America, it was not until the 1860's that Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be a national holiday.
Thanksgiving information obtained from History.com
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