What foods are non-negotiable at thanksgiving?
This year I will attend my first thanksgiving. I am quite intrigued about this ritual and have been researching various aspects of the event including the menu. What can I expect to be eating and what is the background as to why this food is important? What foods are compulsory and what are negotiable?
Mental Floss in its article entitled “Why We Eat What We Eat On Thanksgiving” suggests that the three staples for the Thanksgiving dinner are turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
However, it seems these three items were not all enjoyed in the same way they are today in 1621. Colonists certainly had hunted wild turkey but the best existing record of the Pilgrim’s Feast comes from colonist Edward Winslow, who authored a book called “First Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth”. His account of the 1st thanksgiving did not include an explicit mention of turkey, however he does write that the Pilgrims gathered “wild fowl” for the meal. This could have been ducks or geese just as well as it could have been turkey.
On the other hand, although venison and seafood are not on the staple menu, it’s reasonable to think that both were probably included at the first pilgrim meal. Winslow in his writings specifically mentions that five venison were enjoyed and fish and shellfish were part of the staple diets of the first settlers. For this reason, it should be quite appropriate to include these dishes in your spread.
Even though it seems unlikely that cranberry sauce as we know it had been invented, as sugar was not readily available, the first pilgrims would have have ready access to cranberries. Similarly, the pilgrims probably lacked butter and flour needed for making pumpkin pie so it is unlikely this featured in their menu. However, they probably could have served them after baking them in the coals of a fire or stewed.
So it seems that the dishes of turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie may all be up for negotiation - i.e., if we base the menu on what was served at the first thanksgiving meal.
What will your family be eating this thanksgiving? How will you decide who brings/cooks what? What dishes in your family are negotiable?
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