We all have our Thanksgiving memories, and there seems to be a common theme: Food, Family, Warmth, and Gratitude. The feelings seem to be universal, but did you know that the popular FOOD has varied somewhat over the years? For example, this menu for a New England Thanksgiving dinner is taken from a letter written in 1779 by Juliana Smith to her ‘Dear Cousing Betsey.’ [sic]
Haunch of Venison, Roast Chine of Pork,
Roast Turkey, Pigeon Pasties, Roast Goose,
Onions in Cream, Cauliflower, Squash,
Potatoes, Raw Celery,
Mincemeat Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie,
Indian Pudding, Plum Pudding,
Here’s another example from 1870: “Thanksgiving Dinner. Oyster soup, cod, with egg sauce, lobster salad, roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mixed pickles, mangoes, pickled peaches, cold slaw, and celery; boiled ham, chicken pie ornamented, jelly, mashed potatoes browned, tomatoes, boiled onions, canned corn, sweet potatoes, roasted broccoli. Mince, and pumpkin pie, apple tarts, Indian pudding. Apples, nuts, and raisins.”
Jennie June’s American Cookery Book, Jane Cunningham Croly, New York [NOTE: 1878 edition of this book offers exact same menu (p. 263).
A few years later, in 1877, here were typical recommendations: “Thanksgiving Dinners. — Oyster soup; boiled fresh cod with egg sauce; roast turkey, cranberry sauce; roast goose, bread sauce or currant jelly; stuffed ham, apple sauce or jelly; pork and beans; mashed potatoes and boiled onions, salsify, macaroni and cheese; brown bread and superior biscuit; lobster salad; pressed beef, cold corned beef, tongue; celery, cream slaw; watermelon, peach, pear, or apple sweet-pickles; mangoes, cucumbers, chow-chow, and tomato catsup; stewed peaches or prunes; doughnuts and ginger cakes; mince, pumpkin, and peach pies; plum and boiled Indian puddings; apple, cocoa-nut or almond tarts; vanilla ice-cream; old-fashioned loaf cake, pound cake, black cake, white perfection cake, ribbon cake, almond layer cake; citron, peach, plum, or cherry preserves; apples, oranges, figs, grapes, raisins, and nuts; tea and coffee.” Buckeye Cookery, Estelle Woods Wilcox, Minneapolis Minnesota (What to do with the leftovers??!)
Jump ahead to 1908, and here’s what the Waldorf Thanksgiving menu looked like:”Cape Cod Oysters, Giblet Soup, Sheepshead with Hollandaise Sauce, Tomatoes Stuffed with Cucumbers, Saddle of New Jersey Mutton, Macedoine of Fresh Vegetables, Turkey Stuffed with Chestnuts, Cranberry Sauce, Brussels Sprouts, Potato Palestine, Lettuce and Grape Fruit Salad with Cracked Almonds, Plum Pudding with Rum Sauce, Mince and Pumpkin Pies, Glace Plombiere, Cafe.” —New York Evening Telegram Cook Book, Emma Paddock Telford [Cupples & Leon:New York] 1908 (p. 218)
While tastes in food have changed, the joy of gathering to give thanks never does. Looking at these vintage print cards reminds us that gratitude never goes out of style, and looks good in every era! Bon Appetit!