Friday, November 23, 2012

In Defense of Eating Light

Thanksgiving Dinner has become what it was never intended to be. A slick mass marketed holiday filled with frozen food shipped long distances.

We know that at that first dinner there was no Turkey as we know it now, nor were there a myriad of other dishes many of us think are 'traditional'.

The original celebration was a celebration of the harvest, of the local foods that were in enough abundance so everyone could survive the winter.

Butterball was not there.

From Smithsonian Magazine ...'Wildfowl (probably goose) corn and venison' those are the absolutes.

No Yams...if the birds were stuffed it was likely with onion and herbs, no green bean casserole and no pumpkin pie.

Turkey consumption began with Wild Turkey which were at one point abundant in the Northeast. People in that part of the country often ate that bird as a part of the celebrations because they could hunt it, or trap them and fatten them.

In different parts of the country people ate different foods, often ham in the South, beef in the middle and there are accounts of whole fish being served on the West Coast.

It was not until frozen food became common place that turkey was marketed to America as 'traditional'.

Madison Avenue created this tradition.

...and I did not feel the need to abide by it.

I cooked at a shelter in the morning and made turkey and stuffing and potatoes and gravy and Sweet Potatoes et all. I was happy to do it.

...and cooking for another much smaller group at home, none of who are traditionalists I decided to use my local harvest. Craig here at the hospital has a wonderful rooftop garden and he generously shared with me.Arugula and Fennegreek leaves which I combined with Kohlrabi and cucumber with a fresh pomegranate dressing. I made two tarts, one with roast eggplant and peppers and some local goat cheese and the other with masses of leeks from the farmer's market. 

This was followed by Potatoes Anna mad with potatoes and Jerusalem Artichokes from Franca's farm along with beautiful Swiss Chard from Craig's garden.
This feast of our local harvest along with some beautiful wine left everyone satisfied and not suffering from indigestion.

Go to your local Farmer's markets and get the last of the Fall produce before the first freeze and celebrate Thanksgiving as it was meant to be....a day to be grateful that we have enough to eat, and toast your local small farmer's.

But if one were to create a historically accurate feast, consisting of only those foods that historians are certain were served at the so-called “first Thanksgiving,” there would be slimmer pickings. “Wildfowl was there. Corn, in grain form for bread or for porridge, was there. Venison was there,” says Kathleen Wall. “These are absolutes.”

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