The first Thanksgiving: Traditional Thanksgiving dinner food served at the original feast provides a tasty menu for holiday tables today
Ebony Magazine, November 1975 — When the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, black people had already been in this country two years. That initial celebration lasted for three days, and the feast included turkey, venison, roast duck, cornbread, wild plums and dried berries, all served with white and red wines.
Turkey, which over the years has become the traditional meat of this holiday meal, is an excellent source of high-quality protein. Today it can be purchased fresh, frozen, canned, ready-to-cook and cut up in various forms. The best turkeys are covered with thin layer of fat, have well-formed bone structures and are practically free of feathers.
The recipes on the following pages represent several dishes that might have been eaten at that first Thanksgiving. Anadama bread is a pleasantly sweet New England cornmeal bread that can be made today just as it was at the first feast. Oyster stuffing and steamed cranberry pudding are deliciously different variations of traditional recipes. And homemade rhubarb currant pie and codfish cakes are far tastier than any that can be bought ready-made in supermarkets.
For a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: Anadama bread
Add 1 cup stone ground (yellow) corn meal and 2 tsp. salt, to 2 cups unbleached flour. Dissolve 2 cakes compressed yeast in 2 tbsp. maple sugar. Add yeast mix to additional 1/2 cup maple syrup, 5 tbsp. soft shortening, 2 cups warm water. Beat well. Add additional 3 cups flour; make stiff dough. Turn onto floured board; knead until no longer sticky. Let rise in covered, greased bowl until doubled. Punch down. Knead 2 mins. Divide into 2 loaves. Place in 9×5″ greased pans. Let rise until doubled. Bake at 375 F for about 50 minutes.
Combine 1 cup dried currants with 4 cups diced, fresh rhubarb, 3/4 cup water, 1-1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup cornstarch and 1/4 tsp. salt. Bring to rapid boil in saucepan, then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tsp. grated orange rind. Cool before turning into unbaked pastry shell. Arrange 5 pastry cutouts on top. Bake at 425 F for 30 minutes or until done.
For a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: Steamed cranberry pudding recipe
Sift 1-1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 2 tsp. baking soda. Add 1 cup fresh cranberries, toss lightly. In another bowl combine 1/2 cup cranberries, 1/2 cup light molasses, 1/2 cup hot water, grated rind of 1 lemon; add to flour mix. Stir to moisten. Pour into lightly buttered double boiler; cook 2 hours, tightly covered, over simmering water.
Serve hot with cranberry sauce: Mix 1-1/2 cup cranberries, 1/2 cup cold water, 1-1/2 cup sugar; cover; cook over medium heat until cranberries pop. Sieve. Serve cranberries either hot or cold.
For a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: Side dishes
Side dishes made during the first Thanksgiving and still popular today include com on the cob, boiled or cooked outdoors in husks; popcorn; watercress as a salad or garnish; raw oysters on the half shell and wild grape wine. These dishes also add color to your table. Oysters (below) should be served on bed of crushed ice.
Cube 1 loaf stale Anadama bread; soak in 1/2 cup hot water; season with salt, pepper, sage; set aside. Chop giblets; cook over medium heat in 1/2 cup butter for 20 minutes. In another skillet cook 2-1/2 cups chopped celery, 1 cup chopped onions, 1-1/2 cups chopped apples in 1/2 cup butter until celery is crisp. Add 2 beaten eggs, 1 pint chopped oysters, the giblets and apple mix to bread mix. Blend well. Stuff loosely into all cavities of turkey.
Mix 1-1/2 cups of cold, shredded, boiled codfish with 1 cup cold, cooked hominy grits, 1 beaten egg, 1/4 teaspoon each of celery salt and onion salt. Shape into small cakes. Fry in skillet with 3 tbsp. hot butter until evenly browned on both sides. Makes six patties.