Easy Thanksgiving Recipes for Your Holiday Feast
By Toni Leland
Though our food choices and preparation methods have evolved over the centuries, one thing remains constant: As celebrated by our forebears, the Thanksgiving feast is a time for counting blessings and coming together with loved ones. And wherever family members gather, there will be food that evokes memories. Use these easy Thanksgiving recipes to enhance your dinner table throughout the holidays.
The Pilgrims at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, celebrated a successful harvest in 1621, and this is traditionally considered the “First Thanksgiving,” though technically, the Virginia colony on the James River held a thanksgiving feast on December 4, 1619 – the day of their ships’ safe arrival. In Plimoth tradition, a thanksgiving day was not a feast day; rather, it was a religious observance. However, by the mid-17th century, Thanksgiving was held annually after the harvest, just not always on the same day. In 1863, at the height of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November would be set aside as a day of thanksgiving for all citizens.
Those first feasts consisted of native foods or food the settlers brought from Europe. Native Americans were instrumental in helping the settlers learn to fish and grow native foods. An abundance of wild turkeys inhabited the land, and it is surmised that this is why the turkey became the traditional main course at Thanksgiving. Early settlers also feasted on venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin and squash.
The familiar and beloved dishes that grace our Thanksgiving tables today include many variations of stuffing or dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, baked squash, sweet corn, cranberries, breads, relishes and pumpkin pie. From traditionally rich and high-caloric recipes to slimmed-down versions, our Thanksgiving feasts are individual and different, yet always in step with the holiday’s theme.
So, with time-honored tradition in mind, what follows is a little history about some of the foods we cherish on this truly American holiday. And when November arrives with a chilly gust, take a moment to consider your own Thanksgiving traditions and how they evolved from those celebrated by a group of cold, tired, hungry Pilgrims whose prayers had been answered on the shores of the New World. And be ye thankful!
When she isn’t writing, cooking or taking photographs, Ohio State University Master Gardener Toni Leland tends her acre-and-a-half kingdom in southeast Ohio.
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