A Kitchen Inspired by The First Thanksgiving
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving. I’ve been dreaming about the intense preparation and its extraordinary results for months. I’m aware that most people don’t share my passion for stuffing and cranberry relish, but my life revolves around food so I can’t help but start to plan my feast far in advance.
One lovely July afternoon I got to thinking it would be nice to spice up my family’s Thanksgiving routine. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the staples, but I want to try something different; I want to be adventurous. And then it dawned on me, the first Thanksgiving didn’t include green beans slathered in cream of mushroom soup and topped with fried onions. There weren’t marshmallows to decorate sweet potatoes, and it’s not likely the orange tubers even made an appearance. Thus, the first Thanksgiving has inspired me to think outside the roasting pan. But first, a little background…
The original Thanksgiving, held over the course of several days in the autumn of 1621, commemorated the first successful harvest of the Pilgrims and was celebrated with days full of prayer, games and constant nibbling rather than one large sit-down meal according to my trusty resources at History.com. Many foods that are common on your and my Thanksgiving table hadn’t yet arrived in North America; and if they had, they weren’t likely served in the form we eat them today. That means no pumpkin pie! After all, how would they have baked a fresh, flaky crust without an oven?
Today’s modern day recipes were created by the encouragement of Josepha Hale, editor of the Godey’s Lady Book and “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. In 1858, Hale published a letter in the magazine campaigning that Thanksgiving, then celebrated sometime during the month of November (the exact date changed a number of times), become the national holiday. President Abraham Lincoln conceded in 1863 and Thanksgiving has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November since. The recipes published in Godey’s were similar to many of those you might be planning to prepare in a few weeks – battered oysters, oven roasted turkey, green beans, and yes, pumpkin pie.
So how do I make Thanksgiving adventurous? I’ve decided to go back in time to 1621, well, within reason. I’m not going to hunt my own duck and making porridge from maize is a little out of my league; plus with my personal time constraints I’d have to start cooking now. However, with a little research and additions of special ingredients, I think I can create a Thanksgiving menu that the Pilgrims might recognize.
Rather than turkey, the colonists would have had a table full of seafood, deer, wildfowl such as duck or goose, and roasted meats. I crave turkey once a year though, and a Heritage Turkey packed with Chestnut Stuffing will allow me to sneak a little something different into my family’s very specific Thanksgiving menu. According to the Heritage Turkey Foundation, heritage birds are the Grandparents “of the common Broad-breasted White industrial breed of turkey and are prized for their rich flavor and beautiful plumage”. These old birdies are resilient and making a comeback. Though it is a little more costly and time consuming to raise a heritage breed, the result is a gamier, more succulent turkey that has been recognized since 1874 by the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection.
Many sources note that it is likely foods such as multi-colored corn, onions, squash, turnips and pumpkin made an appearance at the great feast – likely roasted or used in a soup, so my holiday menu will also include Roasted Spiced Carrots and Butternut Squash Soup to finish it off.
As for dessert, my guess is the Pilgrims had limited options to satiate a sweet tooth. Did you notice that turning back the clock on my Thanksgiving menu made it a whole lot healthier? Luckily I live in 2012 and my need for pumpkin pie at breakfast time (consumed while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in my pj’s) can be fulfilled. I’m eager to throw a wrench into my Thanksgiving routine, but really, a girl can give only so much.
With “A Kitchen Inspired” we will share with you the current and up-and-coming ingredients, products, and cooking methods that inspire our team members, chefs and the kitchen at Whole Foods Market Dublin. What’s on your Thanksgiving menu – something traditional, are you going Pilgrim-style, or do you have another inspired dish to bring to the table? Let us know at [email protected].
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