Create an Authentic
New England Thanksgiving Feast
by Marcia Passos Duffy

“Thanksgiving we eat and drink of ye best.”
Dated Nov. 24, 1748 from
William Haywood’s journal, Charlestown, NH

For printer friendly version (with all recipes) click here

Giving thanks – and bringing out “ye best” -- is still at the heart of what
Thanksgiving is all about today.  And what better way to mirror an old-time
Thanksgiving than to make a meal using the traditional foods that New England
settlers ate?  

Well, okay, that’s what the entire country does in one form or another: Turkeys,
potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cranberries.  But here in New
England we have the unique advantage of realizing true authenticity: We can
eat what the original settlers ate using fresh produce and meat grown and raised
right here.  You can’t get more authentic than that.

If you want to go all out in authenticity, not only use locally grown foods, but
original settler’s recipes, says Louise Miller, the former administrator of Fort
No. 4 in Charlestown, NH and currently a historical consultant and the
publisher of
Pinetree Shilling, a historical newspaper of life in colonial America.

For example, Syllabub, a precursor to eggnog, was brought over from England
and served on special occasions in the colonies; Hasty Pudding was a
commonplace in the 18th century homes where it was presented before the main
course to appease the appetite (so that guests would eat less of the meat); and
Marlborough pie – a delectable dessert made with apples and biscuits -- was a
favorite dessert.

While many of our basic Thanksgiving ingredients are the same, Miller says that
despite our opulent modern-day holiday feast, it still pales in comparison the
variety and spectacle of 18th century Thanksgiving dinners. “What was
important was putting on a fancy spread,” she says.  Color was paramount.  
Using different jams and jellies spiced up a plain table.  Also important was
elevating the “masterpiece” food, like the turkey.  “Presentation was all-

RECIPES (click on links to get to recipes):

Hasty Pudding
An Onion Sauce for Roast Turkey
Stewed Pumpkin
Skillet Cranberries
Marlborough Pie

What food was available to New Englanders who first celebrated Thanksgiving?
Much of what’s in season today, including:

Cooking herbs

Native plants included walnuts, chestnuts, plums, gooseberries, raspberries,
wild cherries, ground nuts, wild strawberries, watercress, crab apples, and wild
onions.  The English would have enjoyed spices and would have brought a
supply of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves (but no allspice).

About the author: Marcia Passos Duffy is a freelance writer based in Keene, NH
and the publisher of
The Heart of New England.  
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