In October of 1621, the first Thanksgiving dinner was attended by about fifty English colonist and about ninety Wampanoag American Indians in what is now known as Massachusetts. It is said that the Thanksgiving feast lasted for three days and included deer, wild foul, which would have included geese, ducks and turkey. Historians believe that the feast also included fish, lobster, clams, nuts and fresh vegetables like pumpkin, squash, carrots and peas.
Sweet potatoes had not yet become a staple of the English diet. Cranberry sauce probably did not exist because sugar was expensive and considered a delicacy in the 1600’s (and they are very, very sour when fresh). Likewise, pumpkin pie was probably not included in the meal due to the lack of availability for the ingredients in the crust.
The Wampanoag are one of many Nations of people all over North America who were here long before any Europeans arrived, and they have continued to survive into today. Many people use the word “Indian” to describe them, but they would prefer to be called Native People.
The name, Wampanoag , means People of the First Light. In the 1600’s they had upwards of forty thousand people in the sixty-seven villages of the Wampanoag Nation. They covered the territory along the east coast as far as Wessagusset (today called Weymouth) all of what is now Cape Cod and the islands of Natocket and Noepe, (now called Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard) and southeast as far as Pokanocket (now called Bristol and Warren, Rhode Island.) They have been living on this part of Turtle Island for over fifteen thousand years. Among the Wampanoag as well as other Native People, the Earth is often referred to as Turtle Island.
Today there are about four to five thousand Wampanoag in New England. There are three primary groups, Mashpee, Aquinnah , and Manomet , with several other groups getting together again as well. A few Wampanoag can be found throughout the Caribbean Islands even today, having been taking there during times of slavery.
US President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in 1863. He was swayed by a magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It is said that she continued to write articles urging him to declare the holiday until finally the President agreed. (Leave it to a woman to come up with a great idea, now if it only lasted for three days!) It was not until 1941 that President Franklin Roosevelt established the current date for observance, the fourth Thursday of November.
Fossil evidence shows that turkeys roamed the Americas as far back as ten million years ago. Today ninety-one percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day. It is estimated that fifty percent of us put stuffing inside the turkey. (We stuff our turkey and my stuffing is the favorite part of the meal for me!).
US farmers produced about 735 million pounds of cranberries and most are raised in Wisconsin and Massachusetts. US farmers also produced 1.9 billion pounds of sweet potatoes, most coming from North Carolina, California and Louisiana. Pumpkin crops are estimated to be 931 million pounds, also raised in the US.
The Parker dinner table will have homemade Sweet Potato Casserole, topped with brown sugar and walnuts, my really, really good Cranberry , a speciality of mine which includes fresh celery, green apples, an orange and of course fresh cranberries. I do not cook my cranberries so the dish is very healthy mixture of tart and sweet and brimming with vitamins. My homemade pumpkin pie was baked last night although I will admit, I used canned pumpkin this year. (Sorry – I worked all day yesterday so something had to give!) At least I made the crust, which shrunk a tiny bit while baking, but I doubt that anyone really notices!!
More than 40 million green bean casseroles will be served this Thanksgiving, across 117 million households, that could be potential gatherings for people to celebrate this holiday. We are going with fresh sauteed green beans, seasoned with olive oil, sweet onion and slivered almonds. I love to snap fresh green beans – it is actually very therapeutic you know. It always brings back memories of sitting on the porch with my Grandmother and my Mother breaking beans. I loved it even as a kid!
Our gathering this year was pretty small. Geoffrey’s long time golf buddy Bob joined us and Mom of course. We have the middle Parker brother (Greg) coming in from San Diego, but I would imagine he is still on the road somewhere between here and there. It will be good to have another Parker in the house for a while!
We did have a surprise guest this morning, funny how this guy always seems to arrive somewhere near Thanksgiving each year. It was “Big Foot”, a very large male Muscovy Duck. “Big Foot”, appropriately named for his big black rubber looking boots, has long been a part of the Parker clan. He was one of the first hatched right here in our flower bed several years ago. He started out as a fluffy brown and yellow duckling, the cutest thing you have ever seen. On day two of his life we filled the trash can lid with water so he and his siblings could go for their first swim. It was a delight. Unfortunately, only three of ten or so made it once mama duck took them into the canal. It would seem that we have some pretty big grouper swimming off the pier and apparently baby ducks are a special treat.
I was totally destroyed when we lost so many of our first hatching’s. The mama duck would fly up and sit on the dock and the babies would sit in the water (literally like little sitting ducks) and the peeping would make you long to help them up. Finally, Geoff crafted a duck ramp. He hung it off the side of the pier and every day, until the ducks learned to fly they walked up and down the ramp to the safety of our yard. I guess Big Foot remembers all of this and each year it is a treasure to welcome him back for a few weeks. He truly is one of the largest of his breed, most likely from the mounds of bird seed that Geoff feeds him every day while he is here.
I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful. My day was just spectacular. Rather relaxed, lots of good food, and a beautiful day in sunny, south Florida. I did the cooking, Geoffrey did the cleaning! It just does not get better than that! The rest of our Massachusetts and Vermont Parker’s are having a feast on George’s deep fried turkey and smoked duck. Big Foot would not be happy to learn this fact!
Happy Thanksgiving from Geoff and Pam, and the rest of the Parker’s Climb Clan! Today we are all eating like there is no tomorrow. Tomorrow we get back to the business of training to climb a mountain. My day starts at 7:00 am in the gym! We have a mountain to climb!