Be thankful for the harvest feast

November 28, 2003|ASHTON INDEN

The land was rich in game, the waters alive with fish, and the woods full of edible berries. The Eastern Woodland Indians cured venison and other meats and preserved them by burying them in park pits lined with deerskin.

One of their favorite teas was boiled tips of hemlock sweetened with maple sugar. Turkeys were wild and plentiful, and on the coastline there was an abundance of shellfish and clams.

If not for the friendly Indians, the early Colonists would have starved. The settlers soon discovered that they must learn to adopt indigenous foods.

Maize was easy to grow, and they could cook it in a dozen simple, enjoyable foods such as corn porridge and flatbread. The cooking methods of the sea coast clambake were so popular that this style is still used today.


We still remember to pay homage to the Indians in our Thanksgiving traditions. Giving thanks with prayer for a bountiful harvest was a celebration that was performed in Europe throughout the centuries.

Every country by region had its own identity when it came to food, costumes, games, and, of course, dancing. It was a village celebration. The Colonists brought this custom to their new land. The pilgrims and Indians celebrated their first Thanksgiving in 1621.

The symbol of the turkey has impacted both our past and present and will continue to be significant in the future. How the name turkey came about is somewhat mysterious. The Indians called the turkey "peru," and the English called it a "turkie bird."

It is interesting that the turkey reached European shores in 1711 and the art of raising turkeys spread quickly through Europe.

The turkey is still the national roast for us, but for Europeans since the beginning of the Middle Ages the harvest festival roast is a plump goose.

In the early 1800s, the turkey was introduced to the Middle East and India. During the 18th century, it was presented on royal banquet tables and dinners. With no exceptions, the turkey was found on supper tables of the poor, as well as the rich. This is true even today.

In our current world, food is so plentiful that we do not think about being thankful for the year's harvest. Statistics show that 20 percent of the food we grow is wasted.

Take a moment to reflect on a question: When did we lose the importance and respect for our food? It is still human know-how and the good grace of nature that we need to grow and harvest the food we need for survival.

We should remind ourselves to keep the intentions of our ancestors intact and be thankful for these days.

Today our population eats based on ancestral patterns, cultural norms, family customs and lifelong habits. It is interesting to notice that American cuisine on Thanksgiving Day became a mirror of history.

The names of the dishes and recipes reflect a medley of peoples, religions, wars, geographical locations and even occupations.

We may have lost the country village fare and country fare spirit from long ago, but we should never lose the prayer of thanks in our hearts during the year, especially on Thanksgiving Day.

It is worthwhile to learn how to roast and carve a turkey. This, in itself, is an event for me. I truly enjoy participating in this all-American tradition. Nationwide it is a time for family reunion and is one of the busiest travel days of the year.

On this day, my family places, on a sideboard in our dining room, three horns of plenty filled with fresh fruit, vegetables and bakery goods to represent the bounty of the harvest. They are to remind us of the gift we received from God and nature.

Franz Ashton Inden is a junior at Burgin High School.

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