Tapping Local Bounty for Our Native Feast
Perhaps you’ve noticed a strange phenomenon of autumn? As the days grow shorter, time moves faster. Now that we’ve lost a whole hour of daylight, the days fall off our calendars like leaves from deciduous trees. Before the ghosts and phantasms of Halloween have finished their candy, Thanksgiving is bearing down on us with Christmas catching up fast.
It all happens so fast that at Bay Weekly, we’ve made the first issue of November our traditional time to look ahead to the Thanksgiving feast, which we’ll all be celebrating in only three weeks.
Thanksgiving is America’s native feast day, yet Thanksgiving is as old as the gratitude the first human creature felt on popping a chance nut or berry into a ravenous gullet. Days of veneration are called feasts for a reason. Thanksgiving on our shores dates back only to 1621, when the Pilgrims gave thanks for that year’s sustaining harvest, sitting down to feast with the Indians who taught them the art of survival in this new world.
Imagine the measure of their thanks: They’d crossed an ocean, landing on unknown shores with no certainty of welcome. Worse, they arrived in November in what is now chilly Massachusetts. The picked-over stores they’d carried with them on the Mayflower were all they had to sustain them. The harsh winter of 1620 killed half their number. Yet half lived to plant, harvest and give thanks in 1621.
The feast was repeated on occasions of deliverance for the next two and a half centuries. In 1863, in the hard days of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November a national day of Thanksgiving. In 1941, with World War II looming, Congress made Thanksgiving a national holiday celebrated on November’s fourth Thursday.
Did the Pilgrims eat turkey?
They likely did, as wild turkeys were abundant in the land where Indians lived, as were goose, duck and birds we’d never imagine on the table, like swan and eagle. The waters provided lobster, clams and cod and possibly seal. From the woods came venison, and from the fields corn and pumpkins. Plenty of food was needed, for some 90 Indians joined the feast, as well as the surviving colonists. Abundance was a virtue for people who had nearly starved; it took four centuries before their inheritors realized that even Nature’s bounty is not infinite.
For this year’s feasting guide, local bounty is our theme, and the heroes are the farm families who are our stewards of the land. By sharing their harvest this Thanksgiving, we not only eat well but also invest in their next year’s harvesting and our next year’s feast.
While we’re on the subject of local bounty and the holiday season speeding our way, we want to remind you that the next big date on the Bay Weekly calendar is November 17. In that week’s paper, we bring you Local Bounty, Bay Weekly’s annual guide to the holidays, listing where to shop and how to celebrate from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. As you read, we’re compiling your definitive guide to holiday pageants, Santa visits, illuminations and so much more that we confidently promise to guide you to special pleasures on every one of the 46 days from November 17 through January 1, 2006.