Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Gift of Food: Thanksgiving

The giving of food is one of our most primal acts (and the most primal act you can do in public). It begins with mother's milk and continues one way or another, in some form, in every culture that I can think of. It is a way to welcome a guest or stranger to your home, it is a way you show that you care, and it is a way to show compassion. Most cultures have formalized the giving of food (setting bread and salt by the front door, always setting an extra place at the table, feasting, etc.). This column will be a place to share ideas and tips. Please share your own ideas and tips in the comments.

The subject for our first article in this column is: Thanksgiving.

While largely viewed as a US holiday it is observed in several other countries as well. We've already missed Canada's (second Monday in October) but it is coming up in November for those of us in: Netherlands (Leiden), Liberia, Norfolk Island, and the United States. You can find a lot of interesting info on the Wiki.

I only know Thanksgiving as it is celebrated in the United States, but I'd love to hear ideas and tips for those who celebrate it in different ways.

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner consists of an oven roasted turkey filled with a stuffing (made with the organs, bread and various herbs and vegetables), mashed potatoes, and what ever vegetable casserole someone brings.

One tip for the stuffing is to cook the stuffing separately in a pot. While the stuffing won't pick up the juices from the turkey, the turkey (which gets to keep its juices) will be much more moist.

What really caught my attention though was an episode of The Next Iron Chef. They were making a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Two of the chefs decided to go traditional, non-traditional by going back to the first Thanksgiving (when the original colonists gave thanks for surviving the ocean voyage). They said that since turkey wasn't served at the first Thanksgiving, they'd cook something that was at that feast: venison.

It turns out that the chefs don't know as much about history as they do about cooking. Turkey was served at the first Thanksgiving but so was everything else during the three day feast.

Here is what they served (from the wiki):

The feast consisted of fish (cod, eels, and bass) and shellfish (clams, lobster, and mussels), wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans, and turkey), venison, berries and fruit, vegetables (peas, pumpkin, beetroot and possibly, wild or cultivated onion), harvest grains (barley and wheat), and the Three Sisters: beans, dried Indian maize or corn, and squash.

You will notice that turkey is buried in that long list.

However, that list might give you some ideas for your own traditional, non-traditional Thanksgiving Feast.

Do you have any traditional Thanksgiving Day foods that are unique to your family or region?

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