This blog was added to the Top 50 Native American Literature Blogs. Scroll down to the "Rest of the Best" after the Top 5

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Thanksgiving Alternative

I teach my own children to think of the real Wampanoag thanksgivings - Not only calling them "thanksgivings," but by having a seafood feast for dinner and talking about how each thing would (or wouldn't) have been on a Wampanoag dinner plate (though we sometimes expand it to include any dinner plate in Native America). We usually have this dinner honoring sometime in November, often during the long weekend, but not on Thanksgiving Thursday, when we are doing other ceremonies.

It is kinda fun to pick up each food and talk about it's connection of indigenous America. We decided we "happened" to have the only Native American cheese that existed (hey, it had jalepeno peppers in it) and substituted turkey or some other egg for chicken eggs so we could "count" mayonaise. We called our brown sugar a "modern version of maple syrup."

We figured, even though apples are from Egypt, the Pilgrims planted the first in America, so there is a slight connection to the land of the Wampanoag (literally). Apples take 4 to 5 years to produce fruit so they eventually got into the Native American diet. Maine originated 200 varieties and that's close by. We always got apple picking in September.

Similarly, milk/cream are probably from Ancient Babylon, India, and/or China, but arrived in the Plymouth colony in 1624 (they were in Jamestown by 1611). Yeast (probably simultaneously originated in Mesopotamia and Egypt), flour (Mesopotamia/Middle East), hoummus (chick peas are from southeast Turkey), carrots (Afghanistan) and garlic (central Asia) were harder to justify.

So, what was on the menu? Clam chowder with potatoes and onions, lobster salad on fresh bread, shrimp with tomato-based cocktail sauce, corn tortilla chips with jalapeno cheese dip and tomato salsa, green apples with brie cheese and brown sugar, roasted red peppers and tomato salad,  and chocolate for dessert (thank you to Central America!). Salt (mostly traded in Africa, but we figured the ocean can provide it, too, and since it is a required staple in the body, Native Americans must have gotten it somehow) and pepper (it's a stretch because the black pepper is from west India) were the only spices.

I also have them fast from the evening before, my oldest daughter, oldest son, and I made it to 17 hours. This is to recognize the deaths and remember our history and how NAs have been portrayed negatively right up to modern times.

Here is a great Top Chef (yes, the TV show) about the indigenous people and food available way back then.