Thanksgiving – New Beginnings

Thanksgiving is always a wonderful family get-together. I often wonder how interesting the first Thanksgiving was when I was a kid. I studied about the holiday that represented when pilgrims new to the surroundings of the North American Continent, joined with the natives of the land sharing a harvest. I would ask where are the Indians Dad? How come they do not come to our Thanksgiving dinner? I cannot imagine he gave me an answer to that question since we drove them from their lands, eventually killing them or forcing their assimilation into the American culture by placing them on reservations.   

The first Thanksgiving was a gathering to celebrate a good harvest and natives were present, and if it had not been for them, the pilgrims would have not made it through the winter of their first year. The natives and pilgrims ate fowl such as ducks or geese. On a trip to Plymouth, I remember reading in one of the museums, the turkey was just another name for ducks and geese, probably not any turkey as we know it now.

That brings me to wonder how the gathering went. You are in your first year in a new place. The plants certainly were different. There were probably animals they had not met within their home country of England or even the Dutch countryside. The natives that they eventually met lived in different houses and dressed differently. The strangeness of someone entering this territory alone would cause the natives to be in protective mode. Oh, and the natives had a completely different culture and language.

Yes, the pilgrims, found a different climate for growing crops. It made it somewhat difficult to plant the seeds they brought with them. They were not so successful at first. The natives, however, did not allow the pilgrims to starve and helped them with their crops, introducing to them squash and corn which can be stored and provide one with food all through the winter. I imagine that some of the food at that gathering and the way it was prepared would have been strange to both the native and pilgrim. The native allowed the pilgrims to settle on the land. With all this cooperative sharing the natives and pilgrims gathered frequently to share and learn from each other.

I know for a fact that to be true. Our Thanksgiving meal this year was probably like the first gathering. My wife and I have been eating a whole food diet instead of the American Standard diet. It is truly a healthy way of eating, but you must make concessions. We eat no meat, no eggs, and drink no milk. Yes, we do eat a lot of vegetables. Usually, when family comes over we have a large turkey, oyster dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberries. Sweet potatoes with cinnamon and butter are an option. Then pie, cherry, or pumpkin topped with whipped topping for dessert is always a favorite.

Now our meal had to be vegan. No meat, but we had a tofu turkey roll stuffed with wild rice. No dairy, so I used silk soy milk where milk was required for baking. Butter was soy-based so it was not dairy. We could not eat oysters nor the turkey broth that mixed with the stuffing. We made a separate one with mushrooms and used vegetable broth. The green beans and corn are vegetables and needed no changes. The sweet potato was a good substitute for mashed potatoes and gravy.

Compromise and substitution are necessary with a gathering involving food. The cranberries had to be made sugar-free, but some people in the party had an allergy to artificial sweeteners and one person was diabetic. We made two cranberry dishes, one with artificial sweetener and one with sugar. We had vegan pies for dessert and they tasted great, crusts made without milk or real butter. It was a different kind of thanksgiving, much like the real one, note that potatoes that the natives offered were considered by the pilgrims as poison and some of the pilgrims would still not eat them. Some of the pilgrims at my Thanksgiving did not care for the tofurkey when we offered a taste. Everyone had a wonderful time and all the other food was eaten and consumed with much pleasure.  I am sure the pilgrims and the natives felt full and happy, too.

Published byJohn Larabee

John Larabee received his Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 1973 and his Master Degree in Mathematics and Science Education in 1983, both from Ohio University. He began teaching in 1973 and finished 35 years of teaching in elementary and Junior High English, Science, and Mathematics prior to his retirement in 2008. During his years in the classroom, John developed innovative ways to assist student learning through the development of creative, interactive science units and attention to each student's unique learning style.

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