Happy Thanksgiving! While you’re enjoying a day filled with football, appetizers and turkey, you may be wondering what it would be like to go back in time to one of the first Thanksgiving meals in New England. There are several places where history buffs can experience Thanksgiving as it was in the days of yore. The Hartford Courant has a roundup of local events, for example:
Historic Deerfield holds “Thanksgiving Dishes” a series of open-hearth cooking demonstrations and lectures on harvest celebrations and the evolution of the American Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 22, 28, and 29. Programs take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Visitor Center at Hall Tavern Kitchen and are included with general admission to the museum, which is at 84B Old Main Street Deerfield, Mass. Admission prices are adults: $14; youth, ages 6-17: $5. Children under 6 are admitted free. Information: 413-774-5581 or www.historic-deerfield.org.
What if you don’t live near one of these sites? Here are some ways to add a historical flair to your Thanksgiving meal:
1. Add some menu items: Epicurious has a suggested menu along with recipes for some traditional fare like stewed pumpkin and a sweet pudding of Indian corn. They also explain “the table was loaded with native fruits like plums, melons, grapes, and cranberries, plus local vegetables such as leeks, wild onions, beans, Jerusalem artichokes, and squash. (English crops such as turnips, cabbage, parsnips, onions, carrots, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme might have also been on hand.) And for the starring dishes, there were undoubtedly native birds and game as well as the Wampanoag gift of five deer. Fish and shellfish were also likely on the groaning board.”
2. Add some prayer to your meal: Before sitting down to eat, it was traditional for Pilgrims to offer a prayer of thanks for the meal they were about to partake in. Adding some prayers, like these psalms, is a way to add meaning and history to your family’s meal.
3. Play historical music in the background during your meal: Just as our tastebuds have changed, so have Americans’ taste in music. During this year’s meal try adding some historical flair to your background music, which, if nothing else, would be a great conversation starter for young and old alike.
4. Drink like a Pilgrim: SeriousEats sets the record straight on the kind of beverages that were likely on the menu at the first Thanksgiving, “The notion of the Pilgrims enjoying a dark, English-style ale with the local Native Americans (who seem often to figure as afterthoughts in the story, despite being the only people who actually understood how to raise food in the New England climate) at the first Thanksgiving contains considerably more artistic license—and that brings us back to the notion that Prohibition’s after-effects shoehorned corn into American beer. In fact, corn was used from the beginning of English settlement for brewing, both at Jamestown and Plymouth.”
It can be difficult to find corn beer. If that search becomes too difficult, try partaking in some traditional fortified Madeira wine, which can be purchased online (like here).
How important is the history of Thanksgiving to your family’s celebration?