November
2007

 

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What Was On The Menu At The First Thanksgiving

At the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims DID NOT eat stuffing and watch football. Letís talk turkey. Yes, the Pilgrim colonists and the Wampanoag Indians did have turkey after their first harvest in 1621 in Plymouth, Mass. But it was roasted, not stuffed. Stuffing wasnít the only traditional Thanksgiving food not on the Pilgrimsí and Indiansí menu. According to Metro reseach (thanks to Google and www. nativeamericans.com), historians have determined what was and what was not part of that first Thanksgiving feast. So. if youíre planning an authentic Thanksgiving dinner, read on.


NOT ON THE MENU IN 1621...

HAM: The Pilgrims most likely did not have pigs with them.

SWEET POTATOES, POTATOES, YAMS: Not yet introduced to New England. Historical note: In the 1950s, Bob McCarty introduced the finger-flipping method of serving mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.

CORN ON THE COB: Indian corn only was good for making cornmeal, but not for eating on the cob.

POPCORN: Indian corn could only be half-popped, and this wouldn't have tasted very good.

CRANBERRY SAUCE: Cranberries were available, but sugar was not. (The sugar supply brought over on the Mayflower was nearly exhausted.)

PUMPKIN PIE: They probably made a pumpkin pudding, perhaps sweetened by honey or syrup, but there would be no crust or whipped topping.

DATES, CELERY WITH FILLING: These were McCarty Thanksgiving staples.

PART OF THE MAIN COURSE...

FISH: cod, bass, herring, shad, bluefish, and lots of eel.

SEAFOOD: clams, lobsters, mussels, and very small quantities of oysters

BIRDS: wild turkey, goose, duck, crane, swan, partridge, and other miscellaneous waterfowl; they were also known to have occasionally eaten eagles (which "tasted like mutton" according to Winslow in 1623.)

OTHER MEAT: venison (deer), possibly some salt pork or chicken.

GRAIN: wheat flour, Indian corn and corn meal; barley (mainly for beer-making).

FRUITS: raspberries, strawberries, grapes, plums, cherries, blueberries, gooseberries (these would have been dried, as none would have been in season).

VEGETABLES: small quantity of peas, squashes (including pumpkins), beans

NUTS: walnuts, chestnuts, acorns, hickory nuts, ground nuts

HERBS and SEASONINGS: onions, leeks, strawberry leaves, currants, sorrel, yarrow, carvel, brooklime, liverwort, watercress, and flax; from England they brought seeds and probably planted radishes, lettuce, carrots, onions, and cabbage. Olive oil in small quantities may have been brought over, though the Pilgrims had to sell most of their oil and butter before sailing, in order to stay on budget.

OTHER: maple syrup, honey; small quantities of butter, Holland cheese; and eggs. 



.The Thanksgiving Snowstorm of 1974


Sonny Eliot blew the forecast on Dec. 1, 1974 big time! Zany weatherman Sonny Eliot called for partly cloudy skies during the 6 p.m. newscast on that Sunday after he did the Thanksgiving parade. The next day, Eliot jokingly said the partly cloudy ended up all over our front lawns. Nearly 20 inches of snow fell overnight and into the next morning, turning our neighborhood on North York into something only an Eskimo could navigate. The drifts were so high, nobody went to school or work on that Monday, Dec. 2, 1974. In fact, Utica Schools were closed through Thursday.

The snowstorm extended our Thanksgiving break, which had started the previous Wednesday. And every kid in the neighborhood gave thanks for that. We had a problem, though. Mom wasnít prepared for the storm, all the turkey had been eaten, and Dad hadnít gone to the grocery store. We needed milk and some other essentials to get through the next couple of days. So mom sent the big guys went out to shovel (yes shovel... NO FANCY SCHMANCY SNOW BLOWERS as Jerry would so eloquently put it). While they cleaned Sonny's surprise off our sidewalk and driveway, my Dad and I were sent to the store on Hall Road and Van Dyke Ė dressed in enough layers to deflect a guided missile launched by the dreaded USSR.

I remember Dad superbly navigating the ruts around the corner, and all the way down Oleander, and out to Hall Road, only getting stuck a couple of times, but he was able to floor the accelerator of his station wagon to carom our way back in, while creating a whole new set of "phoney" ruts for the next poor sap trying to get out of the subdivision. Then we parked somewhere close to the Farmer Jack, and with the snow coming all the way up to our waistlines, we trudged our way into the Dossin Pop Store for some essential soda, and then into the Farmer Jack. 

Itís all a blur to me now (I think my brain froze at the time.), but we picked up the items on Momís list and then somehow got back to base camp in our pink tri-level on North York just in time to heckle the big guys, who now looked like snowmen.

I do recall chugging down a big cup of Nestles hot chocolate upon our return, then picking up my wet gloves from the heat register, and bundled back up to go our and chuck snowballs at anybody crazy enough to be driving up North York later in the day. Thanks Sonny for a great forecast for a kid, and some great memories.


TURKEY DAY FACTS
  • Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States.
  • By the fall of 1621 only half of the pilgrims, who had sailed on the Mayflower, survived. The survivors, thankful to be alive, decided to give a thanksgiving feast.
  • The pilgrims arrived in North America in December 1620.
  • The Pilgrims sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to reach North America.
  • The pilgrims sailed on the ship, which was known by the name of 'Mayflower'.
  • They celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day in the fall of 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  • The drink that the Puritans brought with them in the Mayflower was the beer.
  • The Wampanoag Indians were the people who taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land.
  • The Pilgrim leader, Governor William Bradford, had organized the first Thanksgiving feast in the year 1621 and invited the neighboring Wampanoag Indians also to the feast.
  • The first Thanksgiving feast was held in the presence of around ninety Wampanoag Indians and the Wampanoag chief, Massasoit, was also invited there.
  • The first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days.
  • President George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in the year 1789. 
  • The state of New York officially made Thanksgiving Day an annual custom in 1817.
  • Sarah Josepha Hale, an editor with a magazine, started a Thanksgiving campaign in 1827 and it was result of her efforts that in 1863 Thanksgiving was observed as a day for national thanksgiving and prayer.
  • Abraham Lincoln issued a 'Thanksgiving Proclamation' on third October 1863 and officially set aside the last Thursday of November as the national day for Thanksgiving. Whereas earlier the presidents used to make an annual proclamation to specify the day when Thanksgiving was to be held.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt restored Thursday before last of November as Thanksgiving Day in the year 1939. He did so to make the Christmas shopping season longer and thus stimulate the economy of the state.
  • Congress passed an official proclamation in 1941 and declared that now onwards Thanksgiving will be observed as a legal holiday on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
 

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