In our last article, we discussed that you might want to be careful at the suggestion of serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner because, according to some of the only documentation regarding the feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians, the meal consisted of venison and maybe even some swan or passenger pigeons. So, how did we transition from those entrees to what is more common today?
Most historians believe it was in the mid-19th century that Thanksgiving took its current shape and form. However, it’s important to note, that these same historians say that Thanksgiving was, at the time, referred to as The Harvest Celebration of 1621. By the 1850s, most areas of our country were celebrating Thanksgiving, but Abraham Lincoln did not declare it a national holiday until 1863, a full 203 years after the actual feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag took place.
A lot happened in those two centuries. In fact, the whole concept of Thanksgiving was proposed to Lincoln by a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale who thought it would be a good idea for reuniting the country during the Civil War which wouldn’t end for another 2-years. Hale was certainly a woman of persistence; Lincoln wasn’t the first president she petitioned – he was the thirteenth with this letter: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/images/vc48.5b.jpg.
It was Hale who really brought forward the recipes of Thanksgiving that we know now. In fact, as the publisher of Godey’s Lady’s Book, she started publishing recipes so that women of the times would have a reference, and be ready to make Thanksgiving meals as soon as it became a national holiday. In fact, she published as many as a dozen cookbooks, chock-full of recipes. Roasting turkey and filling the cavity with sage dressing was her idea, serving mashed potatoes was Sarah’s recommendation, and these were pretty novel for the day.
Of course, what would our modern-day Thanksgiving be without some dessert. So checkout Sarah’s recipe for Apple Pudding: http://thehistorykitchen.com/2012/11/14/apple-pudding-a-recipe-from-the-mother-of-thanksgiving/.