10 Thanksgiving Day Recipes

Party like it’s 1621 with Kris Wetherbee’s tasty, Pilgrim-inspired Thanksgiving day recipes.

| October/November 2009

  • Our history-inspired holiday menu may differ from the first Thanksgiving feast, but one element remains constant: the herbs and spices used to season the food. So this year, instead of whipping up the usual mashed potatoes and gravy, feature herbs with the foods that likely made up that first Thanksgiving feast.
    Photo by Howard Lee Puckett

This year, I plan to cook a traditional Thanksgiving feast for my family filled with traditional Thanksgiving day recipes. But the menu will not include familiar favorites like mashed potatoes, ham, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. The ubiquitous Thanksgiving banquet has little in common with the original harvest feast that took place in the fall of 1621—including the date on which we celebrate.

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

• Whole Roasted Salmon with Fennel & Rosemary
• Marjoram-Infused Winter Squash Bisque
• Harvest-Day Savory Succotash
• Cabbage and Fennel Slaw
• Bay-Soaked Cornish Game Hens in Raspberry-Sage Glaze 
• Cornbread-Sage Dressing
• Rosemary-Balsamic Roasted Roots
• Cranberry Cornsticks with Chives
• Baked Stuffed Apples 
• Indian Pudding 

Thanksgiving’s beginnings herald back to Plymouth, Massachusetts, when two groups gathered for a three-day harvest feast celebration that has since been referred to as “The First Thanksgiving.”

The groups in question are the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people. For the Wampanoag, who inhabited the area around Cape Cod, giving thanks was a part of everyday life. But for that particular harvest in that particular year, the Pilgrims especially had cause to be thankful. The colony had survived a devastating first year in the New World during which nearly half of their people had perished; and the New England harvest of 1621 proved to be a bountiful one.



Herbs in Colonial Life

Though the exact dates of the three-day harvest feast remain unknown, the festivities are believed to have occurred somewhere between September 21 and November 9. That first Thanksgiving most likely took place in the early part of October, soon after the season’s harvest of the famous Indian corn and plenty of herbes.

Herbs have been used as medicine, in ceremonies and to season foods. Herbs also have been gathered, cultivated and transported during humankind’s migration—just as they were when the Pilgrims set sail and landed in a new world.



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