Hilde Lee: Gratitude remains on the feast menu | To eat


The gathering of all of Plymouth’s settlers into one Thanksgiving feast – they had no babysitters – is the forerunner of reuniting families for the holidays. This tradition has prevailed over the years. We’ve grown to love our new son-in-law, and maybe Aunt Dolly isn’t that bad after all.

We call Thanksgiving dinner a feast. What did these first celebrants eat? The style of dinner has lasted all these years and has often been duplicated.

The settlers ate wild turkeys and game. (Now, unless you have a hunter in the family, venison is not always readily available.) And the wild turkey has been domesticated, thus controlling the size and weight of the bird.

A friend from New England told me that his family’s Thanksgiving dinner usually consisted of stuffed roast turkey, cranberry sauce or firmer cranberry jelly, mashed potatoes, Hubbard squash, creamed onions and Indian baked pudding or pumpkin pie.

Later in the South, Thanksgiving dinner was more lavish. There was the stuffed turkey, but also a ham cooked with cloves and a huge dish of scalloped oysters. (If you lived near the coast, oysters were plentiful.) There were sweet and sour pickles, jelly, and spicy fruit. For dessert, there was a pumpkin pie, homemade ice cream, and a seven-tier cake.

Granted, the first Thanksgiving did not have this variety, but was well provided with thanks and humility for surviving in this strange land.


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