Monday, November 07, 2011


This catered event in November 1621 could have included: corn soup, succotash, white fish, venison, turkey, amimi (pigeon), duck, berries (including whole cranberries), maple sugar candies, corn starch candy, watercress, ramps, beans, squash, corn bread, corn and pumpkin.
November was a religious obligation in England for many years before coming to the New World. On the other hand, Algonkian tribes held six thanksgiving festivals during the year. The beginning of the Algonkian year was marked by the Maple Dance, which gave thanks for the maple tree and its syrup. This ceremony occurred when the weather was warm enough for the sap to run in the maple trees, sometimes as early as February. Second was the planting feast, where the seeds were blessed. The strawberry festival was next, celebrating the first fruits of the season. Summer brought the green corn festival to give thanks for the ripening corn. In late fall, the harvest festival gave thanks for the food they had grown. Mid-winter was the last ceremony of the old year.
When the Indians sat down to the "first Thanksgiving" with the Pilgrims, it was really the fifth thanksgiving of the year for them! Captain Miles Standish, the leader of the Pilgrims, invited Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit (the leader of the Wampanoags), and their immediate families to join them for a celebration, but they had no idea how big Indian families could be. As the Thanksgiving feast began, the Pilgrims were overwhelmed at the large turnout of ninety relatives that Squanto and Samoset brought with them. The Pilgrims were not prepared to feed a gathering of people that large for three days. Seeing this, Massasoit gave orders to his men within the first hour of his arrival to go home and get more food. Thus it happened that the Indians supplied the majority of the food: Five deer, many wild turkeys, fish, beans, squash, corn soup, corn bread, and berries.
Three hundred and ninty years later this first event is celebrated throughout our nation in homes and restaurants. Refined somewhat but still with the turkey as its center, cranberry and pumpkin happily alongside.
From this first food encounter has developed an abundance of American Indian ingredients to enhance our culinary world. New cuisines including Southwestern, Mexican and those of South America have spread throughout the world. The largest culinary growth trend is predicted to be from the Native lands of Central and South America.
Native American Cuisine is slowly peeking its head above the dining room table. It has been presented at the Beard House and a cruise line  feature it. The Crystal Cruises Wine & Food Festival Cruise Jan. 12, 2007 to South America. The Miami to Valparaiso (Crystal Serenity) featured Chef Loretta Barrett Oden, Native American chef and food historian and host of PBS series Seasoned With Spirit. Titled a "Native Cook's Journey" (first series focusing on Native American food).
There are a number of restaurants that serve or feature Native American food. As chefs learn more of the exciting possibilities of this and its fusion potential, menus may go Native. We do have to get past the historical pemmican syndrome.
Native Recipes
Native American Restaurants


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