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Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013
Let's Talk TurkeyPosted Tuesday, November 24, 2009, at 4:50 PM
This blog entry was originally published in the September 2009 edition of She magazine, which can be found here: http://marshalldemocratnews.mo.newsmemor.... The next edition of the magazine is scheduled to be published in spring 2010.
As we all know, Thanksgiving is a holiday with roots, however invented, in the colony at Plymouth, Mass., which became an official national holiday in 1941. The colonists celebrated their first successful harvest with a feast prepared by hand, made up of foods entirely home grown or found in the wild, which were then cooked in a fireplace or wood-fired stove.
The trend today is to use organic and natural ingredients when preparing meals, as both a healthier and a more eco-friendly option. But what if we were to go well beyond that and make a Thanksgiving dinner using only what the colonists had available to them, no grocery stores and modern conveniences allowed?
First, the turkey. Go grab your muzzleloader, or send your strapping husband into the woods to find the perfect bird. Or perhaps you'd like to use a bow and arrow because bullets are sometimes hard to come by -- think of Pa in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House in the Big Woods."
In Missouri, turkey season runs from Sept. 15 to Nov. 13; archery is from Nov. 25 to Jan. 15. If you choose to hunt with a gun, you better build a smokehouse and cure your turkey because it won't keep until Nov. 26 without refrigeration.
Next, we have the side dishes, and for these, we hope you've planned ahead. To have mashed potatoes, green beans and sweet potatoes, you must have planted them in the garden that spring. The potatoes will keep all winter long, stored in a cool, dry place; but, those green beans need to be canned or dried to last from summer harvest time to Thanksgiving.
And what about cranberries, scientifically known as Viburnum opulus L. var. americanum Ait.? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it takes two years for an American cranberrybush seed to germinate and produce a plant. These tart fruits grow easily in the northern United States and Canada, but it may be a little too warm here in Missouri.
Now for dessert! It's not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, but no evaporated milk or canned pumpkin allowed. First, make the piecrust using butter you've churned after milking your cow and flour made by rolling wheat to a fine powder. For the filling, take a pumpkin and cut it in half. Then remove all the seeds and stringy bits from the middle before cooking it, either by steaming it or baking it.
Now the pumpkin is ready for the pie. Mix it with milk, spices, eggs and sugar (though that commodity was a precious one for the colonists) and bake. See this Web site for complete directions.
Of course, keep in mind that for all the mashing, beating and mixing, we'll be using wooden spoons or some other utensil, no electric beater. Imagine trying to make meringue! And, we'll be cooking things at indiscernible temperatures for unknown amounts of time; clocks and thermometers were not common household devices in the 17th century. Apparently my great-grandmother, who was born in 1895 on a farm in rural Missouri, used to time her baking by singing a certain number of hymns.
Not up for this "traditional" Thanksgiving feast? I may not be either. But, I have another thing to be thankful for this holiday season: supermarkets. And now we know why people were always thin back in the old days -- cooking was hard work!
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Sydney is a former staff writer for the Democrat-News. She received degrees from University of Missouri in both music and magazine journalism. She played oboe with the Marshall Philharmonic Orchestra and the Marshall Municipal Band while she was in Marshall.