Oh, how that Thanksgiving spread has changed since 1621
November 28, 1996
Web posted at: 12:00 a.m. EST
From Correspondent Ed Garsten
ANN ARBOR, Michigan (CNN) -- The first Thanksgiving may have
been the most important pot-luck dinner in history. The
pilgrims and Native Americans each contributed the foods they
knew and grew, and in 375 years, the basic menu hasn't
changed all that much.
"We think turkey was part of it, but we're not certain," said
food historian Jan Longone. "We know that wild ducks were,
we think lobster was because it was so ubiquitous at that
time. Assuredly corn, and squash and beans."
While the menu may not have changed much, some of the basics,
like corn, sure have. According to the University of
Michigan's Dr. Richardx Ford, a type of maize called Northern
Flint maize would be similar to the corn the first
Thanksgiving participants had.
They probably didn't eat it on the cob with butter or salt,
though. "Most likely they removed the kernels, ground them
up and prepared them as a form of soup or put it with wood
ash and made a kind of a hominy," Ford said.
Pumpkins have changed too -- they weren't always bright,
orange and plump. "The first pumpkins we had were very
small, gourd-type things," Ford said.
And you might not recognize the recipes the pilgrims used as
anything you'd prepare today. However, there are a few that
are similar. This Thanksgiving marks the 200th anniversary
of the first American cookbook, called "American Cookery."
According to Longone, it contains at least a few Thanksgiving
recipes still used today.
"The one I think is best is one they call Pompkin Pudding,
but really it's pumpkin pie. You start with one quart of
stewed and strained pumpkin, three pints cream, nine beaten
eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg and ginger."
There are only six remaining original copies of the book, of
which the University of Michigan has one. It was written by
an orphan named Amelia Simmons.
Although we have more leisure time today than the pilgrims
did in the 17th century, big meals that take a long time to
prepare may be less often seen than they once were.
Today's trend-watchers say many families are sparing the bird
and opting for vegetarian meals. But those who do choose the
traditional turkey are not only stuffing them with dressing,
but dressing them up to look their best.
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