Thanksgiving and Turkey and Football
by Lynne Belluscio
I often say that history is not written in stone. That certainly is true about the first Thanksgiving. In fact, historians cannot agree on the story of the first Thanksgiving. Some claim it can be traced to Texas, several years before the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth. There is also a story that English settlers in Virginia celebrated Thanksgiving in 1619. But one thing for sure, turkey wasn’t on the menu – neither was mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie. But as a historian, I am not about to change my Thanksgiving menu because it’s not historically accurate.
For my family, it was always turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas, filled with my grandmother’s recipe for stuffing. I have always baked the turkey in heavy-duty aluminum foil at 450 degrees and at the last minute, take off the foil so it would brown.
There is a difference between baking and roasting turkey. Historically, turkey was roasted on a spit in front of the fire, sometimes in a tin reflector, or tin kitchen. The brick oven could not hold the heat long enough to bake a turkey. I think that’s why boiled turkey was popular at that time in the early 1800s.
The 1833 Cook’s Own Book suggests that a turkey should be boiled in a floured bag so it can be served white, with a sauce. (I have never boiled a turkey, and probably never will). When the cast iron stove replaced the open hearth, women were faced with small ovens that could not hold a turkey, and in truth, they preferred meat roasted in front of the fire. So the early stoves had two little doors in front of the firebox, with a wide shelf where the tin kitchen could be placed. The little doors were opened, and the turkey was roasted in front of the fire.
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