Friday, November 17, 2006

Thanksgiving Menus, Part I: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The twelve thousand geographic miles that once separated North America from Australia has shrunk to a few electronic nanoseconds, which means that it has been impossible "over here" to avoid noticing the building Thanksgiving fever "over there". The feeling of being unable to participate, of being left out - excluded even - has not been pleasant. However, I have stopped sulking now, and realise that I can indeed participate by simply doing what I usually do, and giving you some food history for the day.

So, for my many American friends (most of whom I have never met), here is my Thanksgiving gift to you - a selection of historic menus for your enjoyment.


The idea of “eating local” as one aspect of eating ethically has some currency, but it is hardly a new idea. It was promoted as an “appropriate and patriotic” approach to Thanksgiving in November 1918, shortly after the armistice was signed. Americans were reminded of the continuing need to conserve food so that Europe could be fed. The Food Board did its bit by providing sample menus of how this could be achieved, and the New York Times did its bit by publishing them.


“Home-Grown” Thanksgiving Dinner Urged by Food Board.

Thanksgiving dinners of “extreme simplicity” are advocated by the Food Administration, which calls to mind that more than 300,000,000 people in the Eastern Hemisphere need food. The Food Administration says that a “home grown” dinner is recommended, with simple menu, no waste, no imported food, and economy in the use of fats. “Feasting” during the holiday season is discouraged. “Even with the armistice in effect, the need for food saving with a view to world relief is greater than ever” says an announcement today.

The Food Administration suggests any one of these six simple menus as “appropriate and patriotic”:


Roast Turkey, Potato Stuffing.
Glazed Sweet Potatoes, String Beans,
Pickles, Turnips, Onions.
Pumpkin Pie.


Roast Chicken, Potato and Celery Stuffing.
Cranberry Jelly.
Steamed Squash, Oyster Plant, Nuts.
Celery and Apple Salad.
(Use locally grown nuts.)
Plum Pudding.


Roast Pork, Baked Apples.
Cranberry Jelly, Squash, Turnips.
Tomato Salad (home canned tomatoes.)
Marshmallow Pudding.


Roast Rabbit, Creole Stuffing.
Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce.
Head Lettuce Salad, with Mayonnaise.
Celery, Locally Grown Nuts.
Indian Pudding, with Raisins.


Roast Goose, Potato and Walnut Stuffing.
Apple Sauce, Giblet Gravy.
Fried Carrots, Canned Peas.
Fruit Salad.
Sweet Potato Pie.


Roast Wild Duck, Stuffed with Apples.
Belgian Baked Potatoes, Stuffed Olives.
Fried Tomatoes, Escalloped Eggplant.
Cabbage Salad.
Cranberry and Apple Pudding with
Cranberry Pudding Sauce.


The bad boys in Sing-Sing got some good food at Thanksgiving in 1900. This is their menu as described by the New York Times:

In the Prison at Sing Sing.

The inmates of the State Prison had a holiday to-day and enjoyed a “Thanksgiving” fare. Breakfast consisted of sausage, mashed potatoes, peas, milk and sugar, and all the bread they wanted. Mince pie, cheese, apples, bread, tea with milk and sugar, and two cigars for each man formed the bill of fare for dinner. There was no entertainment of any kind, and no religious exercises were held.


In the pre-Super Size days of 1911, there were still some who believed that the way to fame and notoriety was via the stomach.


Starts Sample Bill of Fare with 15 Pounds of Turkey – Will Eat it for $25.
Charles W.Glidden of Lawrence, who says he is the champion eater of New England has submitted a Thanksgiving menu against which he is willing to back himself to the extent of $25. Here is the menu:

Fifteen pounds of turkey or chicken, two loaves of bread, three quarts tea, six bananas and cream, twelve doughnuts, one bunch celery, ten large potatoes, one-half pound butter, one order squash, two quarts cranberry sauce, one mince pie.

Glidden is the man who broke into fame not long ago by eating 58 ears of corn in 115 minutes. Last Monday Lewis A. Walker of Spencer issued a challenge, directed partly at James R. Kane of West Warren, and submitted three menus, offering Kane his choice, but Glidden scorns Walker and his sample menus, saying it makes him “laugh to hear these other fellows tell how much they can eat.”

As the Big Day approaches, time and energy willing, I will add a few more interesting menus to this little collection.

Tomorrow: "Thanksgiving Menus Presidential Style" perhaps, if you are still interested?


Sean Carter said...
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Sally said...

Great post O.F. The only people getting "hepped up" about Thanksgiving on this side of the pond are the foodies. You'd never know it was Thanksgiving by watching TV or going to the stores. They go right from Halloween to Christmas without blinking an eye. It's so depressing. I used to love Thanksgiving when all the family would get together. Ah well.