Sarah Josepha Hale wrote to the Presidents for 17 years – five of them! – hoping to convince one that the New England Harvest Festival called Thanksgiving could be nationalized and made a public holiday. In the meantime, she wrote a poem that was turned into a famous nursery rhyme: “Mary had a little lamb. ”
In her letter to Abraham Lincoln in September 1863, she wrote: “You may have noticed that for some years there has been an increasing interest in our country to hold Thanksgiving on the same day as a whole; it now needs national recognition and authoritative fixation to become an American custom and institution in the long term. ”
Up until this point, every state planned its own holiday, if it recognized it at all. Although America’s first Thanksgiving Day had been held at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia in 1619 – with apologies to elementary school teachers everywhere, it was a few years before Plymouth – the celebration in the south had largely faded.
Hale had been ignored up to this point, but she hit the jackpot with Lincoln. He wrote her back immediately and on 3. October a proclamation that created the holiday designed by its Secretary of State, William Seward.
The country rejoiced, proposed Seward for « increased strength and vigor » despite the tragedy of war, and perhaps most importantly felt the « great increase in freedom ». He asked for wounds to be healed and hoped that America would soon return to « enjoying full peace, harmony, tranquility and union. ». ”
For Thanksgiving, we eat simple, mostly unadorned foods – cranberry sauce and gravy, but not complicated presentations – for the same reason, we serve all of the dishes at once to emphasize the American character of the meal. The table is laden with vegetables, which are not just a bounty, but also the abundance that a harvest offers and the freedom that such a jolt fruit brings. Having enough is the foundation of freedom. Norman Rockwell’s famous picture is not called « Thanksgiving » but « Freedom from Want ». ”
As we near Thanksgiving this year, we are in the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen. Things are very bad and don’t get better. I would suggest that we consider the concept of freedom as both freedom to do something and freedom from something.
If I deal with the latter first, I want to be free from this plague on the one hand. The easiest way to do this is to cut back on travel, stay home, and put together alternative versions of this American celebration that could allow us to literally heal.
You can eat whatever you want this year – is 2020 the year of the Thanksgiving lobster bun? Why not? You don’t have to brave the streets, you don’t have to clog the airports, you don’t have to worry about arguing the table because you have a very good reason to stay home.
Skipping the Super Spreader Turkey Celebrations is the responsible, patriotic endeavor and is in line with the very foundation of the vacation. A Harvest Festival isn’t just a party, it ultimately means you made it and survived.
But how do we take the standard vacation schedule and perk it up? How do you do something festive without the festival?
To add to the spirit of adventure and make things more in line with the original pilgrim menu, I am considering cooking some of my Thanksgiving meal outside over fire.
I reached out to celebrity chef and bestselling author Vivian Howard for advice. She was quick to suggest that I look at the buttered bird in her James Beard Award-winning Deep Run Roots cookbook and consider adding the traditional rosemary and thyme and using a far more intriguing ingredient, the fits my outdoor theme: pine needles. « You can even look for something in your yard, » she said. She got rave about how the pine scents fill the air while the bird fries. It works just as well with chicken as it does with turkey, and just as well in an oven as it does on the Weber grill.
And if you want to rethink your traditional feast, serve some of her little green dress next to the cranberry sauce. The spice plays a key role in her new book, « This Will Make it Taste Good, » and turns the everyday into something special and goes perfectly with smoked, grilled, and even deep-fried turkey.
« Cranberry sauce is the only acidity Thanksgiving has in general, but Little Green Dress can add a whole other dimension, » she said. It is a beautiful spice and at the same time makes me think of chimichurri, caesar dressing, green goddess and salsa verde. Howard likes it on devilish eggs, on mashed potatoes, on prime rib and especially on poultry. (The recipe is below. ) At this time of year she likes to make a large crowd and collect some for gifts. « It’s been going on for over a month, and it speaks volumes about staying home, saving money, and giving people things to use, » she says. « One of the things I learned from this pandemic, I don’t want anyone to give me any more trash. ”
And if you want to take the whole party outside, keep in mind that pans and Dutch ovens are designed to be used over direct flames.
Have plenty of wood ready and make a real fire that lets off some heat, not just a smoky centerpiece. Let some good garlic beans bubble on the edge in a Dutch oven. Wrap some potatoes in aluminum foil after you rub them with olive oil and salt and stick them in the coals. Make sure you have space by the fire – pillows to help reduce the chill – and maybe get some storage blankets. Bring out the good glasses and pour some fine bourbon into a chunky crystal mug by the fireplace. Part of the trick to having an al fresco dinner in weather where the cooking isn’t screaming is to make people feel comfortable – even if it’s only two of you.
But what about the cake, you ask? Naturally. It’s going to be really good here. I experimented with a cake iron that I picked up bizarre at a hunting and fishing store and then ignored for months. It’s basically a cast iron sandwich press with long handles, and it’s so much fun that I’m tempted to cook every bit of Thanksgiving in a pie iron – pressed filling with turkey and cranberry sauce; hand pies filled with sweet potatoes; Sourdough bread filled with sauteed mushrooms, drizzled with Howard’s Little Green Dress sauce.
How does it work? Line the iron with a pie crust (homemade or otherwise), croissant batter, or even slices of sandwich bread (which will be turned into something more perfect and new by the press and heat) and toss a few drops of filling into the center. Pinch it shut and cut off the extra. Then hold the iron over the fire for about three minutes per side (or just put it on your stove’s burner). Not only are these cakes delicious, they are individual, which is perfect for 2020. (In the U. . K. . electric « toastie » machines are very popular and can be found here too. )
To prepare for Thanksgiving, I recently fried some apples with sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon (you could of course be fancier with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of apricot jam) and dropped a few tablespoons into the iron filled with cake batter. The crust was golden and flaky and toasted to sealed perfection: they were delicious. I suggest a couple of dry runs – my sense of how much filling the cake iron can hold and how much of each ingredient to use has improved dramatically after a few tries.
With luck, we may all meet next year and remember our survival like the original celebrants who inspired the holiday. I do extra handpies to share.
Cranberry, Thanksgiving, Cranberry Sauce, Fruit
World News – USA – Grill your Thanksgiving dinner
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