Thanksgiving: Yesterday and Today

Thanksgiving Yesterday and Today

Have you ever wondered what was served on the first Thanksgiving Day? Well, thanks to The History Channel, here is the standard fare for the three day – yes three day — celebration of the Pilgrims and Indians. Historical accounts show that five deer were brought to the gathering, so venison was definitely part of the dinner, as well as ducks, geese, swans, and wild turkeys. These birds were stuffed with onions, herbs, and nuts for additional flavor; and they were boiled or roasted over an open flame. Since there were no ovens, no one had to endure endless hours of baking.

Another protein source came from the water: mussels, lobster, and fish all had a place at the table. The vegetables offered were likely onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots, and possibly peas. Corn was plentiful, but it was first ground into cornmeal, then boiled and pounded into a thick mush or porridge. The fruits available were blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries, and cranberries. Sugar was in short supply, so the natural sweetness of the fruit was enjoyed. Pumpkins were a part of the meal as well. They were hollowed out and filled with honey, milk, and spices to make a custard.

Today we feast for one day, and we have certainly changed that earlier varied menu. Most people feature turkey on their Thanksgiving tables, and some families include ham with the meal. Depending on where you live, cornbread stuffing or dressing is also a main part of the meal, which we could argue is close to the original Thanksgiving. We sweeten up cranberries to make a wonderful sauce, and thankfully we have ovens for pumpkin pies! Potatoes were not cultivated yet for the first Thanksgiving, but they are a welcomed addition to today’s menu. Green bean casserole, sweet potatoes or yams, and dinner rolls with butter generally round out the meal.

Things have certainly changed over time. But the one thing that remains constant is that Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to celebrate our bountiful lives and give thanks around the table with our friends and families. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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