Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving, 1918.

In November 1918, after the cessation of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Thursday the twenty-eighth day of that month as ‘a day of thanksgiving and prayer.’ The proclamation read:

It has long been our custom to turn in the autumn of the year in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for His many blessings and mercies to us as a nation. This year we have special and moving cause to be grateful and to rejoice. God has in His good pleasure given us peace. It has not come as a mere cessation of arms, a mere relief from the strain and tragedy of war. It has come as a great triumph of right. Complete victory has brought us, not peace alone, but the confident promise of a new day as well in which justice shall replace force and jealous intrigue among the nations. Our gallant armies have participated in a triumph which is not marred or stained by any purpose of selfish aggression. In a righteous cause they have won immortal glory and have nobly served their nation in serving mankind. God has indeed been gracious. We have cause for such rejoicing as revives and strengthens in us all the best traditions of our national history. A new day shines about us, in which our hearts take new courage and look forward with new hope to new and greater duties.
While we render thanks for these things, let us not forget to seek the Divine guidance in the performance of those duties, and divine mercy and forgiveness for all errors of act or purpose, and pray that in all that we do we shall strengthen the ties of friendship and mutual respect upon which we must assist to build the new structure of peace and good will among the nations.
Wherefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, the twenty-eighth day of November next as a day of thanksgiving and prayer, and invite the people throughout the land to cease upon that day from their ordinary occupations and in their several homes and places of worship to render thanks to God, the ruler of nations.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done in the district of Columbia this sixteenth day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and eighteen and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and forty-third.

It would have been interesting to know what was on the Thanksgiving table when President Wilson sat down to dinner, but sadly I have been unable to find out. As somewhat of a contrast however, I can give you the details of one other dinner served on this first official Thursday Thanksgiving. It is the dinner provided to the officers at Alcatraz, when the fortifications on the little island in San Francisco bay still operated as a military prison.  

Ox Tail Soup,
            Oyster Cocktails,
                        American Punch,
                                    Roast Suckling Pig,
                                                Apple Sauce,
Nut Dressing,
            Roast Turkey,
                        Cranberry Sauce,
                                    Giblet Gravy,
                                                Mashed Potatoes,
Corn on the Cob,
            Green Peas,
                        Candied Sweet Potatoes,
                                                Fruit Salad,
Olives, Pickles, Picallili,
            Mince Pie with Hot Sauce
                        Pumpkin Pie,
                                    Fruit Cake,
Apples, Peaches, Pears,
            Bananas, Grapes, Assorted Nuts,
                        Assorted Candies,
                                    Cigarettes, Cigars.

Without doubt, none of the officers escaped the dinner table hungry!

I was hard-put to think of a recipe for any of the dishes on this menu that I have not already given you at some time. The ‘hot sauce’ intrigued me a little however. The phrase in Britain and the UK would usually only refer to peppery-hot or chilli-hot sauce – hardly the sort of accompaniment to mince pie. Surely, I thought, ‘hot sauce’ in this context can only mean one thing – custard? And presumably the name is intended to distinguish it from the alternative – hard sauce?

Here is hot sauce according to Housekeeping, Cookery and Sewing for Little Girls, (1925) by Olive Hyde Foster.

Hot Sauce.
The following hot sauce is poured around [the Christmas Pudding]: one-quarter cupful butter, one cupful sugar, one teaspoonful flour. Mix flour and sugar, add butter and one cupful cold water, and stir till it boils and thickens. Flavor with nutmeg.

This, my friends, is not custard!


Anonymous said...

But at least it IS hot, or at least warm, while hard sauce isn't hard.

It is unendingly fascinating to see what things were deemed to go together in the past that we would sort quite differently now, or (of course) not consider at all. Think of all those celery dishes on our grandmothers' tables.

Of course you know this; it is a premise of the blog. I'm just moved to chime in.

Anonymous said...

Years ago my great aunt served a hot lemon sauce over mince meat pie and puddings...then topped it with "hard sauce". The lemon sauce was clear and sweet. Probalby just made with fresh lemon juice, sugar and maybe a bit of butter. The hard sauce was confectioners sugar and butter combined. It was a very stiff mixture made by adding the sugar to the butter until it couldn't hold anymore...then chilled. I loved to eat it alone by the spoonful...forget the mince meat or anything else!

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks bklyharuspex: I love it that you chime in at times: I am only embarrassed that I never seem to have the time to respond immediately. I must get my writing life in order! Cheers to you,

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I rather like the sound of hot lemon sauce over mince pie and Xmas pudding - but I think at my family Christmas there would be a riot if anything other than good vanilla custard, speckled with vanilla bean seeds, was served.