The menu varies from time to time, and from place to place, but the basic Thanksgiving meal that comes to mind traditionally consists of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, cranberry sauce, rolls, and apple pie. Purists say that the only things on that Thanksgiving plate native to this country, meaning the lower forty-eight, are the turkey, wild as it was, and the cranberry. If we consider just that lower forty-eight, yes, that’s correct, and only because those two were here before humans came across the land bridge from the other side of the world. Most of the rest of the meal made its way from Central and South America with population movements throughout the hemisphere.
We can assume that those original travelers brought food stuffs with them, but they would have found plenty to eat here. There were wild rice, which isn’t a rice but a grass, and nuts: walnuts and pecans, to name two. That’s a fair meal if that’s all you have, but they could forage and include wild grapes, black cherries and other berries, and greens like amaranth, wild asparagus, and others. You have to know what you can and can’t eat, and you have to know how to cook them. Trial and error. Of course, there were always fish and game, and honey and fruit for sweets.
If we consider all of the Americas and what was here before the Pilgrims celebrated that first Thanksgiving, if we really want an American meal, then we have to leave out what the Europeans brought to these shores: anything made of wheat, which originated in the Near East, and apples, which come from Central Asia. There go the rolls, the stuffing, and the apple pie. Corn bread anyone?
|Cranberries before the deluge. Many people thing they grow under water.|
Check out the Ocean Spray website and learn more.
People around the world have always celebrated and given thanks for a bountiful harvest. We Americans have raised the tradition onto a pedestal. And yes, especially as far as our feast menu is concerned, we do have a lot to be thankful for - for the turkey and the cranberries, and for the corn, the potatoes and sweet potatoes, the beans, the tomatoes, the peppers, the wild onions, the pumpkins and other squashes, and the bouquet of sunflowers for the table.
The Europeans brought the wheat and the apples - all the rest were here, waiting to be enjoyed and spread to the rest of the world.