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Gifted Gourmet

Cookbook looks at 400 years of Thanksgiving food

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article in Christian Science Monitor

In "Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie" (Clarkson Potter, $22.50, 192 pp.), which she co-wrote with 19th-century food expert Sandra Oliver, Ms. Curtin sets the record straight about what was really eaten on the shores of Plymouth, Mass., in 1621.  After nearly 20 years at Plimoth Plantation, a bicultural living history museum in Plymouth, Mass., Curtin is a leading authority on culinary traditions associated with this American holiday. "Your Thanksgiving menu should tell a story about you," she says. "Let the table speak to who your family is."

The book looks like something which might make for a nice host/hostess gift for the holiday...

an even more interesting review and info ...

Filled with a vibrant, fascinating collection of Thanksgiving photographs and illustrations from Plimoth Plantation’s unparalleled archives, Giving Thanks brings the history of Thanksgiving to life in an incredibly delicious way.

all Amazon reviews are excellent and 5 stars :biggrin:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Its a lovely book. The only problem is that it perpetuates a myth that has no basis in reality. Here's a piece I wrote about Thanksgiving some years ago...

No-Nonsense Thanksgiving

Daniel Rogov

This Thursday, several hundred million Americans will celebrate the holi-

day of Thanksgiving. Because the day is so closely associated

with good dining, even the poorest Americans will stretch their

budgets in order to buy the foods traditionally associated with

the holiday. To deprive an American of his Thanksgiving meal is

so unthinkable that special dinners will be flown to soldiers in

places as far away from America as the Saudia Arabian dessert and

the weather research station in Antartica. Even prisoners in

solitary confinement will be given Thanksgiving dinners.

As most of these people sit down to their dinner tables, they

will reflect on the story of the first Thanksgiving, held more

than three and a half centuries ago, when the Puritans made their

home in the New World. There is probably no myth dearer to the

hearts of Americans than the story of that first Thanksgiving. The

standard tale goes something like this: after establishing them-

selves at Plymouth, Massachusetts and Jamestown,

Virginia the Puritans immediately realized

that they had arrived in a land that was beautiful and bountiful.

They gave thanks to God, befriended the Indians and quickly

learned the ways of their new land. Life was so good that one year

after their arrival they sat down to a marvelous feast where

white and red men and women celebrated together.

Its a great story. There just does not happen to be a word of

truth in it. Shortly after the Puritans had set up camp in the

colonies, William Bradford , probably the most

able leader of the group, wrote that the land they had come on was

"a hideous and desolate wilderness full of wild beasts and wild

men." Simply to survive in this new world was an act of bravery

and the first winter in America was ghastly with famine and

disease. The chief killer was scurvy, which resulted

from a lack of Vitamin C. {The Puritans had fared well enough on

their voyage across the Atlantic because the ship was well

supplied with cabbage, onions and unpasteurized beer (all of which

contain low levels of Vitamin C). Once on land, however, those

supplies ran short and the settlers had no idea of what to do.

Because they considered the Indians barbarians, they failed to

learn that drinking tea based on pine needles

would have prevented this disease.}

Historian J.C. Furnas writes that "subsisting on dried salted

meat and biscuits, and precious little of either, the colonists

died like flies, if not of disease of sheer starvation. "Had the

Indians attacked, defense would have been impossible", Furnas

notes, but "fortunately for both the Pilgrims and those now proud

of descending from them, a plague had wiped out nearly all of the

local Indians that very winter. The colonists gave thanks to God

more for the `scourge that was set on the heathen savages' than

for other blessings."

It took almost six years until the Pilgrims finally came to

realize that the vegetable riches of the new world were enormous.

Cocoa, cassava (manioc), many types of beans, corn,

papaya, sweet potatoes, avocado and the members of the pumpkin

family were available in abundance. Deer, wild pigs, quails,

pigeons were also readily available. As to the bird most often

associated with Thanksgiving, it is probable that the turkey

only became part of settlers' diet somewhere about

1690, 55 years after the fabled Thanksgiving feast was supposed

to have taken place.

Regardless of myths, folktales and out-and-out lies, America

is a rich and bountiful land, and the spirit of Thanksgiving is

one that may justifiably be celebrated. Do, have a Happy Thanksgiving.


Edited by Daniel Rogov (log)

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Daniel, papayas grew in Massachusetts? Please elaborate.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Interesting article and reviews. This book sounds very good.

Thanks, Melissa.


~Amy

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Daniel, papayas grew in Massachusetts? Please elaborate.

Unless the Northeast climate has changed a lot more than I realize, I think that may be a more generic new world/Native American vegetable list. Cacao/cocoa, cassava, and avocado also seem a bit out of place for Massachusetts, which I've never considered tropical, semi-tropical, or even hemisemidemi-tropical. I will, however, allow that this year is turning out much nicer than most, according to the natural gas bill I just got.


Mike Harney

"If you're afraid of your food, you're probably not digesting it right because your stomach is all crunched up in fear. So you'll end up not being well."

- Julia Child

"There's no reason to say I'm narrow-minded. Just do it my way and you will have no problem at all."

- KSC Pad Leader Guenter Wendt

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Interesting article and reviews. This book sounds very good.

My initial reaction was one of "eh, so what's new here?" then, upon deeper investigation, found much which lay beneath the surface ... the reviews on Amazon actually made me stop to rethink the book ...


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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While modern diners debate the relative merits of pinot noir and reisling, Curtin and Oliver write that it "is probable - and presumably regrettable, from the colonists' viewpoint - that the beverage served and drunk during those days of celebration was simple water."
and you can just bet that it wasn't Dasani, Perrier, or even Evian ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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With regard to papaya, cocoa and several other foodstuffs that originated some in the Caribbean, others in Mexico, and yet others in South America, we should keep in mind that for at least three hundred years before the settlers arrived either in Massachusetts or Virginia that the Native Americans had developed a complex system of trade (much dependent upon barter systems) between tribes. It was not at all unusual for such ingredients to be found even among the tribes of what we now think of as the Far West of the United States.

With regard specifically to papaya, at least since the 15th century, papayas were grown, albeit in miniscule amounts) successfully as far north as New Hampshire, the Native Americans being quite wise enough to realize that specially constructed tents (not teepees in this case) would serve to hold the warmth and humidity necessary.

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Daniel,

I give you much respect and all.. But I would be a different man If I didnt tell you that your essay about Thanksgiving was complete bullshit... Dont write a paper quoting unknowns like William Bradford and J.C FURNAS and think they give you the support to discredit our culture and history.. This is not some thought provoking piece, this is an unfounded attack on our countries most sacred of Holidays..


Edited by Daniel (log)

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... Dont write a paper quoting unknowns like William Bradford  and J.C FURNAS and think they give you the support to discredit our culture and history..  This is not some thought provoking piece, this is an unfounded attack on our countries most sacred of Holidays..

Daniel, Hello...

William Bradford is hardly an "unknown". One of those who arrived on the Mayflower, and considered one of the most influential and imporant leaders of the Pilgrim group, he was also one of the few who left behind detailed diaries and journals of his years in the New World. He also served as governor of the new Pilgrim community for all but five years of his long life after arriving in America.

As to J.C. Furnas, I'm afraid you'll find his credentials no less in order. Widely acknowledged as one of the great historians of America, his major work was probably the three volume The Americans: A Social History of the United States, 1587-1914.

And no, I am not at all attacking a great holiday. I am merely, as others have sought to do, attempting to put that holiday more fully into the perspective of historical reality so that we can appreciate it even more today.


Edited by Daniel Rogov (log)

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Regardless of myths, folktales and out-and-out lies, America

is a rich and bountiful land, and the spirit of Thanksgiving is

one that may justifiably be celebrated.  Do, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Thank you for sharing that piece with us here at eGullet, Rogov! I think that this book probably serves to confirm and extend exactly what you have written here ...


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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