Thanksgiving expression of gratitude

Freedom New Mexico

If the pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians, who were present at the original Thanksgiving feast, somehow were transported to modern times to take part in the holiday as we know it today, even they would wonder why we have to suffer through another Detroit Lions football game.

Thankfully, since NFL announcer and video game huckster John Madden has retired from television, we would not have to explain the caloric nightmare that is the “turducken” — a chicken stuffed inside a duck, which is then stuffed into a turkey. Madden made the bird overload famous during his broadcasts of Thanksgiving Day NFL games.

We would have to explain much of the food on the table, since our menu is vastly different than what they consumed. The first Thanksgiving likely featured lots of venison and wild game, but nothing like the plumped-up turkeys that will be the centerpiece of so many meals on Thursday.

Kathleen Curtin, a food historian at Plimoth Plantation site in the town of Plymouth, Mass., said the first Thanksgiving featured eel, lobster, swan, seal, plums and acorns, along with items that have become more traditional to the modern observance of the day: turkey, pumpkin, beans and walnuts.

And pies? Since they had little to no sugar and no ovens, the closest thing they would have had to dessert, according to Randy Joseph, a modern-day Wampanoag (scholastic.com), was a boiled cake made of cornmeal and fruit, which might have had some maple syrup drizzled on it.

Passing food around the table also would be a new concept. According to History.com, in the 17th century, “a person’s social standing determined what he or she ate. The best food was placed next to the most important people. People … just ate what was closest to them.”

What we would not have to explain is the everlasting meaning of the day: taking time to give thanks for the bounty in our lives, for our friends and family. Thanksgiving started as a harvest feast, but has grown into a day to express gratitude for all of our blessings.

So gather at your table on Thursday, say a prayer of humility and grace and share a meal with those you care about. We extend best wishes for a happy and meaningful Thanksgiving.