Thanksgiving Then and Now

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I hope that your Thanksgiving was a blessing!  I spent my day at the cabin, baking pumpkin pies and cooking turkey while family members visited.  All in all it was an excellent day, but this year I found myself making comparisons over what was set on the table yesterday opposed to what may end up on the table post-crisis. 

There are wild turkeys on the property, which I discovered soon after moving here.  I was walking the property line when seven turkeys broke cover and took off low overhead.  Problem is, I haven’t seen any since, so as long as one of the hunting party manages to bag a turkey, we’ll be set. Otherwise, we’ll be eating a couple of Hormel canned hams, which won’t be a hardship.  Of course, the turkey or canned ham will need to be baked in the oven of an antique wood cook stove which isn’t as dependable as the luxury of setting a regular oven on bake and then get down to preparing everything else, but it will still be doable.  

The broccoli and mushrooms will need to be rehydrated and the white sauce will need to be made from canned milk opposed to fresh, but again, that won’t pose a problem, especially since there is plenty of preserved cheddar cheese that sits on shelves protected in cheese wax for the top of the broccoli dish and onion powder set aside instead to flavor the white sauce.

The mashed potatoes will be made from hydrated potatoes, and there is yeast to make the rolls. Butter sits in canning jars and the pumpkin and apple pie ingredients sits on food storage shelves.

Thanksgiving will probably be centered on the blessing that we were gathered together with enough food storage to get us by until planting seeds in the ground for continued survival the next spring, and it will be then that we can enjoy fresh salad and fruit. 

I have no illusions that Thanksgivings in a protracted crisis will go as smoothly as it does now.  For one thing, it will take a lot more preparation to get dinner on the table.  For another,  this small cabin will be unbelievably crowded should everyone choose to leave the two guest cabins for the main cabin.  Water will need to be pulled up from the well with a manual pump and run through the Berkey, and no one will be able to let down their guard should looters be in the area. 

Actually when you think about it, the lifestyle of the Pilgrims and what our lives will be like in a grid-down crisis, now 393 years later,  probably won’t be all that dissimilar than when the first meal was shared with the Wampanoag in the autumn of 1621. 

Of course, we will be pinning over the lack of a car to drive, and the fact that light switches won’t cooperate, and on a more serious note, by the time Thanksgiving time rolls around, there might be looters to dodge, thus blackout curtains to hang.   

It is said that although no one left us a menu to know for certain what was served during that first gathering at Plymouth back in 1621, it is known that it lasted for three days!  

There would not have been cranberries served in the way it is today because maple syrup to and sugar to sweeten the cranberries wasn’t widely available until long after that first meal.    

If this was a political meeting between the Wampanoagas and the Pilgrims as they cemented a military alliance, it’s possible that women weren’t in attendance. But I’d prefer to go with the traditional story that women were present and that first meal was a celebration of the first successful Pilgrim harvest (notice it took them more than one try to get those crops producing?).  As Preppers, we should take note of that fact and get in some serious practice in the garden come this next spring! 

The meal was likely held outdoors because pilgrims didn’t own McMansions back then, with freeways of solid granite counter tops, but I’m sure it was tasty, and appreciated more because the food was not selected from a 24-hour grocery store and was instead either grown or shot from resourceful Pilgrims that knew better than to take eating for granted. 

Based upon what was available in the region of Plymouth back in 1621, the menu could have included all or several of the foods listed below:

Venison (5 deer were brought by the Wampanoag and were probably roasted over an open spit)

Turkey

Ducks

Geese

Clams

Lobster

Cod

Eel

Turnips

Onions

beans

Lettuce

Spinach

Cabbage

Carrots

Peas

Blueberries

Plums

Grapes Gooseberries

Raspberries

. . . but it’s not a sure thing that turkey made it to the table.  Although wild turkey was plentiful in the area, when William Bradford sent four men out in a hunting party to bring back fowl, it’s just as likely the men skipped the turkey and returned with duck, geese and swan. 

America’s fascination with turkey didn’t become a national pastime until Sarah Joseph Hale began a campaign for a Thanksgiving national holiday that placed the turkey in high regard as the centerpiece of a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Read her tantalizing over-the-top description of gluttony on a grand sale contained in a passage of Hale’s novel, Northwoods, that was published in 1827: The roasted turkey took precedence on this occasion, being placed at the head of the table; and well did it become its lordly station, sending forth the rich odor of its savory stuffing, and finely covered with the froth of its basting. At the foot of the board, a sirloin of beef, flanked on either side by a leg of pork and loin of mutton, seemed placed as a bastion to defend the innumerable bowls of gravy and plates of vegetables disposed in that quarter. A goose and pair of ducklings occupied side stations on the table; the middle being graced, as it always is on such occasions, by the rich burgomaster of the provisions, called a chicken pie.

For the readers who enjoy trivia and wasn’t already aware of the date, Thanksgiving wasn’t made an official holiday until Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of each November Thanksgiving Day back in 1863. 

So, if Thanksgiving rolled around to a blackout, what would you serve for the Thanksgiving meal and how would you cook it?  On a completely different track, what do you believe about the first Pilgrim meal: was it a meeting between Wampanoag and the Pilgrims to strategize a military alliance, or to celebrate the first successful harvest, or do you believe it was a combination of both?  Please sound off by posting your comments below!

God bless and stay safe,

David Morris and Survival Diva

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