|"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" Jennie A. Brownscombe, 1914|
Thanksgiving was made a national holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, not 1621! We have one lady to thank- Sarah J. Hale. While Thanksgiving had been celebrated sporadically before the 1863 proclamation, it was not an annual occurrence. Hale had lobbied for years to get a day for national Thanksgiving, in the midst of the Civil War, after the victories in Gettysburg & Vicksburg, Lincoln conceded and made the proclamation for an annual national holiday.
Traditional foods have been served for centuries, but where our "menu" comes from is a bit sketchy. I would assume that a lot of the first thanksgivings used what was available, usually meaning wild game & seasonal vegetables. Some of the first "pilgrims" list fowl, venison & fish for the meal, and not much else is mentioned. It could be that the sides were a common staple and not worth the mention.
When Sara J. Hale wrote Northwood in 1827 she included an entire chapter about the Thanksgiving Meal, giving detailed information about the food that was included- with the turkey taking the center stage. She also references a chicken pie that should be as large as the host's gratitude for the party. Another reference to a Thanksgiving menu can be found in Buckeye Cookery in 1877.
You can see that many of our traditional favorites are mentioned including roast turkey, baked sweet potatoes, macaroni & cheese, and pumpkin pie! There are other references to what should be served at a Thanksgiving meal that include chicken pie, pork loin, pickles & sweetmeats! There seemed to be a lot of variety in the meal, much like there is today from table to table.
Meat pies were common in the 19th Century, as I have tried on here, there are many varieties for each meat pie, chicken, pork, mincemeat, etc. the possibilities seems almost endless. The chicken pie seems to be a staple on the 19th century kitchen table. Sara Hale describes a simple pie made from the best parts of the chicken then flavored with butter & put into a puff paste- like a pumpkin pie. The dish below taken from Jennie June's American Cookery Book, 1870 is more complex- including three meats & boiled eggs.
|Directions for Cookery, in Its Various Branches- 1844|
Desserts were plenty to chose from as well- the lists of cakes, pies and puddings could meet the need of any sweet tooth.
There are many- almost too many- reference to pumpkin pies & puddings- check out this post for pumpkin goodies.
Indian Pudding- a dish made with corn meal and molasses- was an item most tables had seen throughout the year, and of course was brought out on Thanksgiving as well.
|Directions for Cookery, in Its Various Branches, 1844|
|The New England Economical Housekeeper, 1845|