There are a lot of takes on what exactly the pilgrims ate at the first Thanksgiving. I wouldn’t even hazard a guess, except to say it was all local, traditional food. Not to make light of this treacherous period of time in which many lost large numbers of their families to travel and disease, but in terms of food I sort of envy their situation. They did not face the cacophony of choice that us Americans suffer from.
Instead, food was what was available, unadulterated, simple calories. Foods that grew nearby, could be hunted, or had been preserved earlier were what you put on the table. And giving thanks might have gone a little deeper, as families looked forward to surviving a brutal New England winter. Having tried my hand at growing some meat and vegetables myself, food is more appreciated and respected when you understand the work that went into it.
In that spirit, here are a few ideas for a Thanksgiving meal that may not be a replica of the first, but considers the spirit of local, traditional foods that might have been present.
Turkey is the obvious and having seen a few wild turkeys roam onto our own homestead, I can say that placing one at the table might be an easy wild food choice. If that is not available, there are farmers raising pastured turkeys who feast on their natural diet and live outside in their natural habitat. But, thinking outside of the box, if venison is what you have, then why not make it the centerpiece? If beef is readily available and grass-fed in your area, then how about a juicy roast? Turkey certainly is ubiquitous, but locally available might make more sense.
What is available is what is traditional. This time of year potatoes, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, hearty greens, winter squash and root vegetables can grace your table any day of the week. Spinning these into interesting dishes with seasonal fruits like apples and pears makes it even more special. Or turn them into a nourishing soup like this Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Caramelized Apples & Fennel. And don’t forget the grass-fed butter and coconut oil!
When it comes to bread, sourdough is king in our house. It’s simpler than it sounds to make and produces a deliciously tangy loaf that is easier on the belly than most. These Sourdough Maple Einkorn Rolls are sure to be an extra special treat slathered in good butter.
Pies are a traditional dessert for Thanksgiving, and for good reason. You can fill them with whatever fruits you might have available. This Deep Dish Gluten-Free Honey-Sweetened Apple Pie is one of our favorites. But if apples aren’t available how about a sweet potato or pumpkin pie? Here in the south pecans are prevalent and make for one of the most decadent pies around.
Rounding these foods out with vegetable ferments or organic wine or kombucha will give it a nice touch. And making thoughtful choices as to the ingredients used, even homegrown if possible, puts such a special harvest touch on a day of Thanksgiving.