Sunday, November 18, 2012

Traditional ? Feasting

Do you ever consider just why you eat what you do for your Thanksgiving dinner? Simple question - but the answers are a bit more complicated. No, really - why do you?

Some would say that today's "traditional" Thanksgiving meal is in line with what the Pilgrims had at their harvest festival in 1621 at Plymouth Plantation.

There is little written account of that festival; only the words of William Bradford and Edward Winslow have been found. They tell us that four soldiers were sent to hunt for fowls, and they returned with enough to feed the whole village for a week. Other foods listed included corn meal, fish such as bass and cod, water fowls, turkeys, and venison. No stuffing, cranberries, or pies...

Potlatch Pilaf
Turkey was introduced to the early Pilgrim settlers by the Wampanoag tribe after the Pilgrims arrived in 1620. The wild turkey is native to North America and was a staple in the Indian diet. The first year for the settlers was bleak, with many dying from the journey.

Their seeds, aside from barley, did not produce any usable crops. The Indians assisted the settlers, introducing them to native foods such as corn and squash and showed them how to hunt and fish.

Pumpkin, which dates back 9,000 years to Mexico, had been cultivated by the Indians for centuries, roasted or boiled for survival. The pilgrims might have made stewed pumpkin by filling the shell with a mixture of orange flesh, milk, honey and spices and baking it in ashes, but the first pumpkin pie did not appear until 1670.
After a year of sickness and scarcity, the Pilgrims who survived gathered to thank God for saving their lives and guiding them through their journey in the Mayflower and the following year of drought.

After rain that revived the crop of corn and other fruits, they celebrated the day with their neighbor Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoag, who came with all his extended family - ninety people - and stayed for three days. No one knows for sure, but this was possibly a placatory measure/political maneuver by the decimated, uneasy ranks of the colonists.

Dungeness Crab

With only four adult married women left to do cooking, the meal likely consisted of roasted venison, stewed or boiled fowl, lobster and fish, corn and wheat breads, stew of dried fruits and perhaps pumpkin, one or two boiled vegetables and only water to drink. The Wampanoag helped by contributing five deer they had killed and probably other supplies out of courtesy.

Giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts had always been a part of Wampanoag daily life. From ancient times, Native People of North America have held ceremonies to give thanks for successful harvests, for the hope of a good growing season in the early spring, and for other good fortune such as the birth of a child. Giving thanks was, and still is, the primary reason for ceremonies or celebrations.

Evergreen Huckleberries
Merrymaking and feasting - in England and throughout Europe after a successful crop are as ancient as the harvest-time itself. Today’s national Thanksgiving celebration is a blend of traditions: the custom of rejoicing after a successful harvest and the Puritan Thanksgiving, a solemn religious observance combining prayer and feasting.

Clams & Oysters
So gather together for a day of THANKS with family and friends. In our part of the country, perhaps a meal of baked salmon, clam chowder, braised kale, huckleberry muffins, spiced applesauce, and yes - pumpkin pie - might be in order. How about where you are?

Wild Sockeye Salmon 

..."He has shown kindness
by giving you rain from heaven
and crops in their seasons;
He provides you with plenty of food
and fills your hearts with joy."
Acts 14:17

For other Thanksgiving posts, click below:
Recipe for Thanksgiving
Blessings, Wherever You Find Them
Sorting Out the "Needs"


  1. Your NW holiday menu sounds really delicious. I feel blessed to live where salmon -- my favorite protein -- is abundant, but we're still having the traditional turkey. Have a wonderful holiday!

  2. we have the old gobbler over here...but the salmon & everything else sounds way better to ME!! if i didn't already have the turkey in the fridge...i would seriously consider doing your turkey day feast! maybe next year. no, forget maybe...YES!

    have a happy THANKSgiving, to you & yours ladybug!

  3. Thanks to both of you! Well, we did the "traditional" turkey dinner for many, many years & then turned around & did the whole thing over again for Christmas. A couple of years ago I decided to break with tradition & do something very "kid friendly" for our grandkids, whom we see very seldom. They now each get to make one of the side dishes to go with roast beef. We've had corn pudding & a gooey-good potato dish, but this year it will be baked mashed potatos, steamed miniature pumpkins stuffed with fresh raisin chutney, fresh green beans with lemon & pine nuts & a wonderful mincemeat salad.To us, it's all about family, friends, & being grateful for whatever we have - which is what I like to think this "1st" Thanksgiving was about. We try to eat as much local food as possible. so often do have Pacific NW traditional foods, such as those mentioned.

    Christmas will be the full turkey dinner, tho, & I'll be ready for it by then.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you both!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. We had the "traditional" turkey meal, but your salmon looks delicious! And by the sound of it, the rest of your meal was just as delectable!

    I've not been around the blogosphere in a while, but yours is one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing on my blog, too!

    Happy Thanksgiving!