Will the real Thanksgiving please stand up?
As children we were taught that the Pilgrims sailed from England to escape religious persecution. Months later when they landed on Plymouth Rock they suffered extreme difficulty surviving through winter with about half them perishing from starvation and disease. The next year it was believed that some friendly native tribes taught the Pilgrims how to hunt fish and game, plant corn and squash and helped protect them from hostile tribes. The first Thanksgiving in 1621 we believed was held to celebrate a bountiful harvest with the tribe that helped make it possible.
However, historians have since suggested that was not exactly how it went down and still squabble over the significance of America’s feast day from more than 400 years ago. The commonly believed traditions of this holiday contain their share of myths. In Plymouth, Mass., on this day those who oppose prevailing versions of the story stand atop Coles Hill with indigenous people and instead of feasting — fast. They do this in observance of what they call a “national day of mourning” in remembrance of the destruction of Native American culture and peoples. That’s quite a disparity in views of the same holiday.
On a lighter note let’s talk turkey. It is not surprising there is also much debate over of what the first Thanksgiving menu was comprised of. There is no evidence that it was turkey, but instead contained some kind of wildfowl — likely geese and duck, — venison, corn mush and stewed pumpkin, or traditional Wampanoag succotash. Cranberries, though native to the region, would have been too tart for dessert and sweet potatoes were not yet grown in North America, so that rules them out. While on the subject of turkey, here’s some news I found surprising. Weren’t we told that the tryptophan in turkey is what lulls us into a stupor after the holiday meal? As it turns out, however, turkey has little to do with our lethargy. In fact, according to Web MD, turkey has the same amount of tryptophan as any other kind of poultry and I don’t recall ever becoming drowsy after eating “KFC.” Nutritionists believe it is more likely the added consumption of carbohydrates, such as cornbread and mashed potatoes and just plain overeating that may account for the condition.
So, perhaps the first Thanksgiving’s being a cross-cultural love-fest isn’t as true as we were taught. Some historians say it is more likely the settlers and the “Indians” came together more by the extremity of their mutual need and less by genuine friendship. The two struggling communities were “wary allies” against other tribes. To quote writer Richard Schiffman, “Only by openly acknowledging the sins of our collective past, is it possible to proceed toward a future that all Americans can feel thankful for.” In any case, we wish you a happy “Turkey Day” and a good nap afterward.
Contact Anita Kornoff at firstname.lastname@example.org