Have a Historic Thanksgiving!

For Thanksgiving I’ll simply repost a brief piece I wrote for our department blog earlier this week. Probably most useful for those of you who like to put off your shopping (and menu planning) until the day of the event, though there’s also some fun trivia in there even if you’ve got everything set to go. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Bethel will be on break Wednesday through Friday, so don’t expect much blogging. But before we sign off, a few suggestions for those who would like to add a layer of historical verisimilitude to their Thanksgiving. (And be sure to describe it just like that.)

Currier and Ives, "Home to Thanksgiving"
Currier & Ives lithograph, “Home to Thanksgiving” (1867) – Library of Congress

1. Don’t serve cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, or any kind of pie, but fix cornbread, porridge, venison, and waterfowl

That’s according to culinarian Kathleen Wall, who works at Plimouth Plantation (a living history site dedicated to telling the interrelated stories of the Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag people). There might have been cranberries, and turkey was there (but accompanied by quail and pigeon, among other birds), but many other Thanksgiving staples were later additions to the menu. Oh, and while we’re at it…

2. Serve eel, too

And if that suggestion struck you as surprising, weird, and repulsive (perhaps not in that order)… Well, you’re exactly the kind of person that animator Drew Christie had in mind when he created his three-minute “OpDoc” on the subject for the New York Times website this past Sunday. Citing the research of James Prosek (who wrote about this last Thanksgiving in the Times), Christie’s film explores why it is that a food that was most likely consumed at Plymouth Colony now seems so unlikely a holiday entrée.

3. If in doubt, think, “What would our 32nd president have served? Or our 22nd?”

For some last-minute recipe ideas, check out this slideshow from the Washington Post, featuring dishes from some of the White House’s occupants — including FDR’s Chestnut Stuffing and Grover Cleveland’s Parsnip Fritters. (The Post writer notes that the fritters were served during Cleveland’s first term in office, but “There’s no word on whether they reappeared four years later for his historical non-consecutive second term, 1893–1897.”)

Bon appetit!

Cross-posted at AC 2nd

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