Re-create an Authentic First
In a recent
issue of Seasons at Home, we discussed the benefits of holding
historical feasts in your home as part of your family’s delightful and
hands-on educational experience. You can read “Feasting on History”
in the Summer 2008 issue of Seasons at Home magazine.
With the arrival
of autumn and the cooling temperatures outside, our thoughts turn to
holiday celebrations – the gathering of family and friends around our
hearth and home. The brilliant color display of the deciduous trees
reminds us that this is the time to express our thankfulness to the
Lord for His goodness and the abundant harvest of this past year.
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In the year
1621, just 10 months after arriving at Plimouth, our pilgrim
forefathers held a feast to celebrate their successful harvest and the
Lord’s goodness bestowed upon them. With only 53 surviving members of
their colony – about half of the number that left England the year
before – these resilient men and women invited over
Wampanoag Indians to join them
an outdoor feast lasting 3 full days.
This feast may not
have actually been called “Thanksgiving” because
devoutly religious people, a day of thanksgiving was a day of prayer
and fasting, and would have been held at any time during the year when
they felt an extra day of thanks was called for. It was also a feast
that was not repeated annually, so it can't even be called the
beginning of a tradition. At least, not yet…
It wasn’t until
1863, shortly after the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, that our
tradition began when Abraham Lincoln declared a national holiday – a
day of remembrance and Thanksgiving – to be observed on the last
Thursday of November. It has been an annual American tradition ever
since. Even so, we will always reflect upon and observe the 1621
feast as the very first Thanksgiving and it has become the model that
we pattern our own Thanksgiving celebrations after.
So what was
served at that very first Thanksgiving? Was it turkey and pumpkin
pie? Well, yes and no… Turkey was undoubtedly served, but it wasn’t
the centerpiece at the table nor was it stuffed. It was accompanied
by venison, duck, geese and fish. Pumpkin may have been served, but
certainly not in the form of a pie. Most likely, it would have been
stewed and not sweetened like we serve it today.
is a recipe that may have found its way onto that first Thanksgiving
table. It is called Furmenty and it is a pudding usually served at
Harvest time in England. Furmenty is made from whole hulled wheat.
Unusual, but delicious!
1 cup whole
hulled wheat/wheat berries (available at many stores that sell bulk
1 quart milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground
1/8 tsp. ground mace
or a pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy
additional sugar for sprinkling
Fill a large pot with 8 cups of water, bring a boil and add the
wheat. Lower heat to simmer, cover, and continue to cook for 3/4
hour, or until, soft. Drain off all the water and add the
milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon and mace/nutmeg.
Continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is
absorbed (20 to 30 minutes).
a small bowl, beat the egg yolks and cream together and slowly stir
1/2 cup of the hot wheat mixture into the yolk mixture. Then stir
the yolk mixture into the pot, and continue cooking for another 5
minutes, stirring frequently.
Serve sprinkled with sugar.
re-create the other foods that were most likely present at that first
Thanksgiving, I would recommend that you order the Thanksgiving
Primer, a book that has been published by the Plimoth
Plantation, a living museum recreating 17th century
Plymouth. The museum’s goal is to create a better understanding of
the life and times of both the English colonists who settled there as
well as their Native American neighbors, the Wampanoag. (Another
source of authentic Thanksgiving recipes is the book titled
Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History from Pilgrims to
Pumpkin Pie also available from Plimoth Plantation.
Amazon price is $22.50.)
Thanksgiving Primer by writing to:
Attn: Mail Order Department
P.O. Box 1620
Plymouth, MA. 02362-1620
Include a check
Or you may order
these titles from Vision Forum or Amazon.com.
Within the pages
of the book, you will also learn how the colonists might have dressed
in 1621. We conjure up images of dowdy figures dressed head to toe in
black with just a peek of white around the collar and cuffs. This was
not the case at all. There was a much wider range of colors worn than
our modern image portrays – colors such as red, yellow, purple, blue,
brown and grey.
fashioned primarily from wool and linen, with some leather pieces.
Most of the garments worn by a typical English commoner from this time
period would be recognizable today, consisting of a long shirt,
breeches, knee-length stockings, coat and cape. Women wore shifts and
petticoats as undergarments and gowns, waistcoats, capes and aprons
over the top. Most women wore a linen cap called a coif covering
their hair while the men wore varying styles of hats and caps, worn
inside and out.
Although the 3
day feast of 1621 was more of a secular event and not a true day of
Thanksgiving as they defined it, the faith of our pilgrim forefather’s
permeated their every day lives. They undoubtably would have said a
prayer before sitting down to their meal. Although the exact words
are unknown, a typical “prayer before meate” would have gone something
O Lord our God
and heavenly Father, which of Thy unspeakable mercy towards us, hast
provided meate and drinke for the nourishment of our weake bodies.
Grant us peace to use them reverently, as from Thy hands, with
thankful hearts: let Thy blessing rest upon these Thy good creatures,
to our comfort and sustentation: and grant we humbly beseech Thee,
good Lord, that as we doe hunger and thirst for this food of our
bodies, so our soules may earnestly long after the food of eternal
life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen
George Webb -
Short direction for the daily exercise of the
would have sat on benches at cloth-covered tables. They ate with
knives, possibly spoons, but without forks. They would have used
large linen napkins, about 3 feet square, for wiping their hands,
which were used to both serve and eat the meal. The individual dishes
they used were called trenchers, which are small square or round
wooden plates. The food would have been brought to the table on
serving dishes or platters and the trenchers used as a place to cut
food just before being consumed, much like the “reach and eat” style
of eating that is still common in the Near East today.
authentic first Thanksgiving will be a very worthwhile and memorable
event for your entire family and invited guests. I challenge you to
take a stab at it and take many pictures throughout the process. What
a highlight for this fall season! Take the guesswork out by ordering
a copy of the Thanksgiving Primer. This book outlines
everything you need to know about throwing your own 1621 Thanksgiving
Knowledge Quest, Inc.
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