Celebrating Thanksgiving in Massachusetts
While there are many differences between the First Thanksgiving celebrated at Plymouth back in 1621 and the modern pie-eating, football-watching holiday that many participate in today, the fact remains that Thanksgiving is an American tradition that we could all stand to learn a little bit more about. Some of the foods that we eat every year in November are not as authentic or historically accurate as we might think, but have become a traditional way to remember and celebrate this special feast.
According to the history books, the First Thanksgiving feast was given to celebrate a good harvest. The tradition of a “day of thanksgiving” came over from the Puritans and Pilgrims who emigrated to the New World from England in the 1620s and 1630s. There were many different feasts during these early years that have been identified as the First Thanksgiving, including the 1621 event, other holidays and Thanksgiving celebrated at Plymouth by the Pilgrims in both 1621 and 1623 – even a Puritan holiday that was celebrated in Boston in 1631.
The idea of celebrating the harvest on an annual basis was not widely recognized in New England until the 1660s and up until 1682, thanksgiving proclamations were made primarily by church leaders. Between 1682 and the Revolutionary War, both church leaders and state leaders made official proclamations of thanksgiving, influenced heavily by the politics of the day.
The first truly official proclamation came from President George Washington on November 26, 1789, who proclaimed the date as a “day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” American Presidents still get in on the act, “pardoning” a turkey to spare its life each year to mark the occasion. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln officially nationalized the holiday as an American day of celebration.
So what did the Pilgrims eat back in 1621? Tradition tells us that they did dine on wild turkey, but that there were also other local foods such as lobster, clams, berries, pumpkin, squash, fish, venison and waterfowl. Many of the original menu items have been retained and embraced even by modern Americans, becoming a part of our family traditions.
Benjamin Franklin had great respect for the wild turkey and lobbied to have it established as the American bird, but turkey wasn’t commonly served in American households until after 1800. In New England, turkey became part of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner by 1857.
Americans sure love their Thanksgiving turkey. It was reported that turkey growers expected to raise 270 million turkeys in 2006, which would be processed into as much as 5 billion pounds of turkey meat, retailing for around $8 billion. Statistics show that nearly 1/3 of all the turkey consumed in the United States is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with each person consuming approximately 18 pounds a year.
Thanksgiving in New England
Turkey has the starring, feature role on Thanksgiving, but for many the side dishes are really the biggest attraction. Each region and family has its own traditional dishes, but for the most part we all recognize a basic array of standard “turkey day” items. Most people would agree that a true Thanksgiving Dinner is not complete without the dressing, gravy and cranberry sauce. These are the most traditional of all the side dishes served in the United States. However, that’s where the similarities often end.
Winter squashes, such as yams or sweet potatoes are other common sides, along with mashed potatoes, corn and green beans. Some serve them up in a casserole and others include special seasonings just for the occasion. In Baltimore, it’s common to see sauerkraut on the table and in some parts of New England, as well as in the southern states, cornbread is usually served. Pumpkin pie is the most traditional dessert, however sweet potato, mincemeat, chocolate cream and apple pie also make a regular appearance.
The origins of oyster stuffing can be traced back to New England, as well as the addition of cranberries, chestnuts and other fruits, nuts and vegetables. Some families dine on stuffing made from white or wheat bread, while others use cornbread as the base. In some areas, wild rice is served instead.
Everyone Loves Thanksgiving at Persy’s Place
For a true, traditional taste of Thanksgiving, you can stop by Persy’s Place for a special treat. Persy’s Open Faced Turkey Sandwich is made with in-house roasted turkey breast, stuffing, gravy and an amazing native cranberry sauce for just $7.99. If you visit during breakfast hours, make sure to try Persy’s legendary Eggs Ben Franklin, which includes dropped eggs, hickory-smoked turkey breast served on a toasted English muffin with sauteed mushrooms, melted Swiss cheese and Hollandaise sauce – a 25 year-old unique creation that you just can’t get anywhere else.
Check out the November 2012 Specials here on Persy’s Website, or look at our Current Promotions – and visit one of our locations. Pay homage to the Pilgrims that started this whole Thanksgiving thing at our Plymouth location, or check out any of our other 8 locations all throughout Cape Cod, Eastern Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from Persy’s Place!