Later it turned out to be a holiday season
with carnivals, feast and football. Anyway, the focus of the day is the
that is prepared and enjoyed with the entire family. In some cases, friends and
neighbors get together for the meal.
Since this is one of the most enjoyed and
relished feast, the best food is prepared and put on the table. The food which
is usually served includes, turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean
casserole, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
‘Waterfowl and in some cases wild fowl, venison and corn for bread or porridge were the three highlights of the first thanksgiving meal.’
Turkey with stuffing:
The turkey is the main course of
the meal and is stuffed with bread or vegetables, mainly cauliflower or yam.
The meat, weighing about 20 to 30 pounds is cooked for 8 - 12 hours depending
on the quantity. Slow cooking on the oven makes it exceptionally delicious.
This is the main accompaniment that goes
along with the meat. The potatoes or sweet potatoes in some cases are cooked in
milk and butter or cream.
to go along with the turkey and potatoes. The
sauce is a high calorie food made with mushrooms and butter.
Grilled vegetables, beans
are other add ons in the menu.
Americans usually have a balanced meal with vegetables and greens. It may be in
the form of salads or grilled or boiled.
For dessert, pumpkin pie, pecan pie are
served. The reason for pumpkin to pop up might be because it is seasonal.
No meal is complete without alcohol. When it
is a party and spending time with friends, alcohol is preferred.
Though, this is said to be a traditional
meal, is it really what was on the first thanksgiving?
What was the First Thanksgiving Meal?
The First Thanksgiving
place in the year 1621 was a feast between the Pilgrims
and the Wampanoag
Colony. The feast included waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash.
Surprising, isn't it? The thanksgiving meal
was altered based on the preferences of the nationals. In England, there is a
liking for turkey compared to other meats and so they adopted the meat from the
vast list of protein that was served at the first meal.
The turkey which is now the highlight of the
meal wasn't in the picture. It is said that wild turkeys were also used along
with venison (deer). The pilgrims were early Europeans who hunt. They relish
venison, ham and prefer seafood and waterfowl.
So turkey was included in the menu in the
late 1800's since the Presidents back then wanted to include it in the meal.
Benjamin Franklin had a liking for turkey. Officially in America, turkeys were
on the menu after 1863 when the day was declared a national holiday by Lincoln.
Along with chopped celery, carrots, and
onions sage is the traditional herb added to the stuffing. Bacon, chopped tree
nuts, cranberries, raisins, were also added to stuffing.
Turnips, carrots, onions, garlic and pumpkins
were harvested. The Indians taught the colonists to grow them and the first
produce was on the table for thanksgiving feast.
The popular pumpkin pie and the cranberry
sauce were not on the list. Yes! Pumpkin was served as soup. The oven was not
invented in the 1600's so there was no possibility for a pie. Also, the
pilgrims settled in a new land which means that they had to cultivate their own
crops and so they had no access to wheat or flour.
It was just in the 1800's that the pie and
the cranberry sauce was included in the White House menu and later became
Wall, a foodways culinarian at
Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth has given inputs on the
first Thanksgiving meal.
According to the culinarian, 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."
Looking at how the ancient
Thanksgiving feast took place, there is a better understanding on what makes
the traditional meal. Not that we should follow the exact meal. but we could alternate
some of the foods that were most relished.
Meat, mainly duck, venison or
turkey and plenty of sea food, carrots, turnip and pie. The ancient meal was a
high protein, low carbohydrate one and was packed with nutrients. There was no
room for extra sugars. Also, the meal was less processed, meaning, there was
very minimal cooking which retained more nutrients.
So, what needs to be changed? The
choices are many.