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Thanksgiving: the holiday celebrating earth's harvest


Wild, American Turkeys in East TN.  Photo by Margaret M Hoff

There are two holidays throughout the year that are truly American and are solely unique to our country culturally and traditionally – The 4th of July and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the only holiday that we celebrate that is directly related to food sources that are American, and it is our only holiday that is directly related to the seasons. It is a celebration of nature’s bounty: a historical day in which Americans celebrated having the harvest gathered and processed with enough food to survive the long winter.

Thanksgiving is all about what North America has to offer at the end of a good growing season. Thanksgiving is my favorite, and always has been, I supposed because as a child of the farmlands I appreciate how it honestly belongs to us… Turkey day belongs to my people. Turkeys have walked wild on this continent since the last ice age, where Old Europe was quite turkey-less. (That face alone scored them nearly enough votes to become our national bird, but in the end, I guess, looks do matter.) Corn pudding may be the oldest New World comfort food; pumpkins and cranberries, too, are exclusively ours. It’s all American, the right stuff at the right time.

To this tasty native assembly add a cohort of female relatives sharing work and gossip in the kitchen, kids flopped on the living room floor watching behemoth cartoon characters float down a New York thoroughfare on TV, and men out in the yard pretending they still have the upper body strength for lateral passes, and that is a perfect American day. If we need a better excuse to focus a whole day on preparing one meal, eating it, then groaning about it with smiles on our face, just add a dash of humility and hallelujah. Praise the harvest. We made it through one more turn of the seasons.
                      -- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

In honor of American tradition and fresh, homemade food, here are several recipes that highlight the flavors of American produce, in season just in time for Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Sauce
      Follow the package directions to prepare cranberries – 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water per package of cranberries. Add 1 teaspoon of grated ginger and 1 teaspoon of orange peel grated per package of cranberries. Or use 1 teaspoon ginger powder and 1 teaspoon orange peel spice with the sugar, water and cranberries. Let set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours (or more) before serving – for decoration, line the dish with slices of oranges or tangerines.

An Always Moist Turkey
      In order to avoid the overcooked, dry turkey carcass right out of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, be sure to bake your turkey in about 1 to 2 inches of water, taking time to baste periodically. For the last 20 minutes of baking time, remove the lid off the turkey to make sure to get the golden brown skin that is so delicious. Also, add garlic and fresh rosemary or sage to the pot, as well as salt and pepper. Use the cooked turkey juice for the basis of the Thanksgiving gravy.

Baked Acorn Squash
2 small acorn, or hubbard, squash, halved seeded
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Place squash in baking dish; fill centers with combined remaining ingredients. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Serves 4 (double the recipe for more, or use as a small side dish during the big Thanksgiving meal).
             -- 1,001 Delicious Soups & Stews, Edited by Sue Spitler with Linda R. Yoakam

Holiday Corn Pudding A Nine-Year-Old Can Make
3 cups corn kernels
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup grated Gouda or Jack cheese
2 tablespoons parsley (dried)
1 tablespoon marjoram (dried)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients and pour into greased baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until top is puffy and golden.
-- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

In modern time it’s mostly pageantry, of course, this rejoicing over harvest and having made it to winter’s doorstep with enough food…Having more than enough, whether it came from the garden or the grocery, is the agenda of this holiday… here is a day off work just to praise Creation: the turkey, the squash, and the corn, these things that ate and drank sunshine, grass, mud, and rain, and then in the shortening days laid down their lives for our welfare and onward resolve… In my household credo, Thanksgiving is Creations’ birthday party.
-- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

To not acknowledge that this holiday has political and environmental hazards would be remiss. Yet during this time when so many are lacking in good fortune, it seems that we should indeed thank the earth for what she has supplied. And if you are able to give to those who have less than you, please do. If you are able to donate time instead of money to those who need help, please do. If you are able to buy organic and/or local food for your green feast, please do. If you are able to supply a non-meat choice for your vegetarian friends, please do. And no matter your situation this Thanksgiving holiday, please do give thanks.

For more info:  To give, money, time or other, please visit The Salvation Army.  To find local produce for all your needs during the holiday season, go to Local Harvest.  For ideas on what to cook without a turkey this year, try out Vegetarian Kitchen or the Veggie Table.


  • maggie 5 years ago

    thought I was the only one to bake aturkey in water! it really DOES work very well!