The New Thanksgiving
Almost 400 years ago, under a crisp autumn sky, the first harvest in the New World was celebrated among the Pilgrims and Native Americans. The meal consisted of mostly meat and corn, items dictated by the season and deeply appreciated by the hungry reciprocants. This first gathering would become an annual ritual, and eventually, a nationally recognized holiday.
Today, Thanksgiving is a day for a tryptophan and pumpkin pie food coma before four in the afternoon. Fast forward from the “First Thanksgiving” to almost 400 years later, and the industrialized food market is making millions off of one single meal. The entire purpose of Thanksgiving has taken a slow, increasingly wrong turn, landing us in a twilight zone of an event, where everyone in the country is eating the exact same thing on the exact same day, regardless of geographical location or agricultural circumstance.
When did we sacrifice seasonality for canned, carbon-copy spreads? Thanksgiving was born out of people coming together in appreciation for what the earth provided. It was local, it was sustainable, and not in a trendy or pretentious “where did you order your turkey from?” kind of way. This year, the challenge is to take a centuries-old tradition and realize that our ancestors were doing something right. Yes, this means death to the all hailed green bean casserole, which, let’s be honest, is usually made from canned soup and out-of-season green beans. Face it, those little crispy onions are addictive (and probably the only real reason that anyone digs in anyway).
Of course, there is something to be said about what we now look at as the traditional Thanksgiving meal. In a few small words, people want turkey. This holiday, we are trying something different. The turkey will be prepared two ways. The legs and thighs have been rolled into a roulade and cooked sous vide, allowing it to be cooked to the perfect temperature ahead of time and seared prior to serving. The breast has been roasted in a more traditional fashion after sitting in a 24-hour brine and getting a healthy rub down with sunflower seed oil, salt and pepper. Respecting one’s food is a tradition long lost as we enter the holiday season where everything is readily available from the box, can and jar. The entire bird has been included in these recipes to showcase the many uses of this important Thanksgiving staple. The bones have been roasted and made into stock used both in the giblet gravy and flint corn stuffing.
Squash and pumpkins are other seasonal staples. They usually appear in the form of a mash or pie. This year, we’ve decided to make a cornmeal and pumpkin Indian pudding. It has been cooked in applewood coals over a backyard fire, reminiscent of a dish that dates back to William Bradford’s recollection of the first time this holiday was celebrated. It is both whimsical and completely original, served in the roasted sugar pumpkin and charred skin it has been cooked in.
This year, we’re proposing that you try something new by honoring the old. Just because it is convenient to grab all your fixings in the one stop shop of a supermarket doesn’t mean you have to. If you are unable to grow your own food, there is no better time to show gratitude to local farmers. These men and women are some of the hardest working individuals around. They are up before the sun and often do not get to bed until well after it sets, to ensure they can provide food for both their family, as well as yours. For this, we give thanks.