The harvest season is now in full bloom. One of the most celebrated holidays is Thanksgiving Day, a day set aside each year where people in the US, Canada, and around the world give thanks to God for all the blessings bestowed upon them and by feasting.
The first Thanksgiving in America was by a group of 38 English settlers in Berkly Plantation by the James River (Charles City, Virginia) on Dec. 4, 1619. Their charter required that the day of their arrival be observed yearly as a day of Thanksgiving to God.
Thanksgiving is the oldest holiday in America and comes with a lot of traditions and customs. The American Thanksgiving meal of today includes seasonal dishes such as Roast Turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.
Today, Thanksgiving Day is often a family reunion dinner celebration. Christians attend church services and pray, thanking God for all the blessings for the year. In many instances, after the prayer is said before the meal, each participant is to name at least one blessing bestowed upon them during the year.
It is not Thanksgiving dinner without a huge roasted turkey, and it seems like it’s always been that way. However, history shows it was not always that way. Turkey did not become a staple of the holiday until the mid 19th century. There is no evidence that early Pilgrims had turkey at the first Thanksgiving. They did bring fowl, but it was duck or goose. So it is not known where the turkey came from or why it became so popular. Many believe it was due to its large size and ability to feed a lot of people. Also, Turkey was readily available and affordable.
During the early days of Thanksgiving white potatoes and sweet potatoes, whether mashed or roasted, had no place on the dinner table. However, in modern days white potatoes are usually mashed and seasoned with butter and herbs. The sweet potatoes are prepared as candied potatoes with marshmallows or they are prepared as a pecan sweet potato casserole that can be served as a dessert due to the pecan, butter, and brown sugar topping.
Pumpkin Pie has become a traditional Thanksgiving dessert in modern times. Many other pies are also made at Thanksgiving, but the pumpkin pie takes the center stage. Pumpkin pie can be traced back to the 1600s when European settlers first discovered pumpkins in America. Back then the only way to make pumpkin pie, since butter and wheat flour were lacking and settlers had not yet constructed an oven for baking, was to hollow out a pumpkin and fill it with spiced sweetened milk, then cooking it directly in a fire. By the 18th century and after the Civil War, pumpkin pie was all over the nation.
One side dish that many Americans and other countries look forward to on Thanksgiving is the stuffing. History has no evidence of Pilgrims preparing this side dish. The stuffing side dish became very popular in the 1970s with the introduction of the Stove Top Stuffing mix in grocery stores. There are various ways to make this side dish. The basic recipe calls for cubed dry bread or cornbread that has been seasoned with cooked onions, celery, carrots, and sage. The various recipes for the stuffing are prepared according to preferences.
The sweet cranberry sauce that is known and loved today may not have materialized until the late 17th century when Native American recipes of cranberries made with sugar and water were uncovered. According to the Washington Post, the first cranberry sauce recipe can be found in the 1796 cookbook American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. The canned version of cranberry sauce was invented by a former lawyer, Marcus L. Urann. He quit his job as a lawyer to run a cranberry bog and ended up changing the future of the fruit.
It is hard to say when exactly the turkey gravy came into the picture, especially the homemade kind that is created from the drippings of a turkey since wheat flour used to make gravy was lacking back in the day of the Pilgrims. However, it is known that packaged turkey gravy powder mixes got big in the 1950s when, according to the Atlanta magazine, convenience in the kitchen became a huge deal.
The side dish called the Green Bean Casserole was created by Campbell’s Employee Dorcas Reilly who mixed Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup with the frozen green beans, then added fried onions for texture and color. This dish immediately became popular.
As the years went by many cultures and ethnic groups added more food items that are dear to our hearts to the Thanksgiving meal– such as apple pie, pecan pie, sweet potato pie, and macaroni/cheese casserole. All of these food items except apple pie originated in the South.
Food is the major attraction for the Thanksgiving Holiday. The bottom line of this holiday is to give thanks for all blessings bestowed by God.