WOW-Thanksgiving!

Posted on 15. Nov, 2012 by in Projects, World of Wonder, WOW! Blog

The picture above is of a root cellar.  “What does that have to do with Thanksgiving?” you might ask. I’ve been thinking about our modern Thanksgiving Day celebration and how far removed it is from the first Thanksgiving the Plymouth Colonists celebrated around 1621 or so. We can go to the local supermarket and buy everything we need for our feast from a frozen turkey to green beans, salad greens and canned cranberry relish. But what did those Pilgrims eat at their feast? They would have eaten things they had grown and things they could hunt for. Most likely the first Thanksgiving was not held in late November but sometime after the harvest when the people would have been celebrating their successful harvest. If they had grown things that we might call “root vegetables” that can be stored they would have used them. It is likely that they had potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash and pumpkins. And maybe they had corn. The corn they would have eaten is not like our sweet corn that we get fresh in the summer and eat off the cob. They would have had what we today would call field corn. This is the fully ripe, dried corn that could be ground into meal or made into hominy. They probably wouldn’t have had any cakes or pies since they wouldn’t have had flour or sugar. I’m sure they didn’t put marshmallows on their sweet potato casserole! They may have had wild turkey and very likely they had venison- deer meat.

Today we have supermarkets and refrigerators and freezers to store what we buy. The early colonists had none of that. Besides hunting and farming they had to have means to store food through the winter. One way of doing that would have been to have a root cellar for storing root vegetables such as potatoes, onions, turnips and also winter squash and pumpkins. If you visit historic homes you will usually find a root cellar and maybe a spring house where food could be stored in the winter and in the summer to preserve it. Also techniques such as drying, salting and curing could have been used to preserve meats.

If you visit the Farmer’s Market or the supermarket this weekend it might be fun to think about what things are available there that the Pilgrims would have had. Maybe you could try to put together a meal that is just what the Pilgrims had. It might be fun and a bit of a challenge. Or maybe you would like to try setting up a root cellar at home to see what you can store without a refrigerator.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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