The holiday feast dates back to November 1621, when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered at Plymouth for an autumn harvest celebration, an event regarded as America’s “first Thanksgiving.”
While no records exist of the exact bill of fare, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow noted in his journal that the colony’s governor, William Bradford, sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the three-day event. Wild—but not domestic—turkey was indeed plentiful in the region and a common food source for both English settlers and Native Americans. But it is just as likely that the fowling party returned with other birds we know the colonists regularly consumed, such as ducks, geese and swans. Instead of bread-based stuffing, herbs, onions or nuts might have been added to the birds for extra flavor.
I googled Thanksgiving dinner menu. Here are some of the results:
From Country Living:
- Perfect Roast Turkey.
- Cheese Grits and Corn Pudding.
- Roasted Sweet Potato Casserole with Praline.
- Marvin Woods’s Brussels Sprouts, Red Pepper, and Avocado Salad.
- Potato and Celery Root Gratin.
- Green Beans with Bacon.
- Cracked Pepper Dinner Rolls.
- Pumpkin Pie with Walnut Crust.
I will pass on the grits but the pumpkin pie with walnut crust sounds tempting.
From the Smithsonian Institute a copy of the Thanksgiving Dinner Menu for the Civilian Conservation Corp. in 1935:
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families as part of the New Deal.
I think this menu must have seemed very plentiful in the days of the depression. No family for the men to be with. There must have been a bittersweet quality about the meal. Note the cigarettes on the menu.
Here is a chart of an easy Thanksgiving menu to an advanced Thanksgiving menu.
Keep it simple and classic
Add new twists to the traditional meal
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The year my ex and I separated, the kids and I got the flu just before Thanksgiving. We were acutely feeling the loss of a sense family and so having a “traditional family” dinner wasn’t appealing. Plus none of us had regained our appetites. So we had fondue for Thanksgiving dinner.
Fondue had always been a favorite. It was easy. And maybe the absence of a family member wasn’t felt quite as much.
This year Mom and I will be hosting my youngest sister and her husband. We will be roasting a turkey breast. The turkey will be accompanied by a winter squash casserole, potatoes and gravy, salad greens with raspberry walnut dressing, green beans, pumpkin and cherry pies. I have fixings for a punch but not sure I want to mess with it.
I think we may not get out the china and silver. Everyday table ware and paper plates will keep it simple. After all it isn’t what we eat. It is who we share our meal with.
May you enjoy your meal with loved ones.
May you know true thankfulness which is the best holiday seasoning ever.