The year of the first Thanksgiving was 1621, but the celebration was in early October rather than late November and the even marked the traditional English Harvest Home festival celebrating the grain harvest. Food was scarce. The Pilgrims had planted corn, squash, pumpkins and beans, wheat which failed, oats, barley and peas. Quahogs and shellfish kept them alive. (Governor Bradfor apologised to visitors from England for serving lobsters and oysters instead of meat). The final menu most probably included roast goose, venison, stewed pumpkin, stuffing, frumenty (an oat pudding), wild berries, succotash, and fried cakes made from oats and water, as well as ale.
The Pilgrims were without sugar except for a small amount of maple, they had no cow's milk for cream sauces, and, with no wheat flour, pies were crustless. There were probably not enough tables to accomodate even a tenth of the number celebrating. It is more likely that food was eaten on the ground, in shifts. No forks, for the Colonists either. Indians and Pilgrims used their fingers and the tips of knives and spoons to eat from shallow wooden dishes. Some food was taken directly from large kettles. Most was eaten with the hands hot from the fire.
The truly well dressed turkey will have silver-plate frills on its legs. The pair cost $15 plus $1.50 postage from - who else? - Neiman-Marcus, Box 2968 Dallas, Texas 75221.
The wild turkey eaten in 1621 and dark-meated, muscular and very tough, unlike our modern plump, tender domesticated birds. Forty pounds was too large for any roasting pan and sometimes the turkeys were so covered with ticks that they had to be skinned and encased in clay, Indian fashion, to preserve the flavor and juices while being slowly spit-roasted over an open fire. GOBBLED GOOK
Turkey calling's come a long way since the days of cedar box calls and corncob and slate cluckers. Today's hunters use diaphragm resonators, and Jim Clay produces some of the better ones. Clay teaches English in the day-time and talks up his turkey calls at night. His Perfection Diaphragm Turkey Calls come with free advice. Write to him at 509 Lanny Dr., Wincester, Va. 22601. GETTING LOADED
The original blunderbusses were made to accept "a handful of most anything you wanted to put in them," says John Clark, of Clark Brothers Gun Supply in Warrenton, Virginia. Because of their bell-shaped muzzles they weren't accurate for more than a few yards, which suggests that turkey-hunting Pilgrims were either very good shots or very hungry. Orginials are nevertheless scare these days, and collectors may pay anywhere from $300 to $1200 for them. Reproductions (best for hanging over your fireplace) can be ordered from Clark Bros. for between $100 and $125. Delivery takes about two weeks.
Mr & Mrs. John Warner will be spending Thanksgiving down at the farm. She's having a coop built so she can have chickens roaming around the yard (maybe turkeys, too). It doesn't have any foundation at this point, in case she wants it moved.