By Mara Papatheodorou, your Tastes & Traditions Expert
‘Tis the season to give thanks and spend time with good friends and family sharing a delectable meal. Thanksgiving, which will be celebrated on Thursday, November 28, is an authentic American holiday that is all about pausing, appreciating and celebrating the bounties of the autumn harvest. No matter what time of year, taking a trip and spending time together is thankfully a wonderful part of cruising.
Whether you eat to live or live to eat, I believe food unites us all, so I am especially thankful to you for letting me be a part of your voyage, no matter what your destination. I hope you’ll remember, “From port to port, culture to culture, dish to dish the world becomes a smaller place around the table.” Happy Thanksgiving!
SAIL: Anywhere Regent Seven Seas Cruises sails—each port creates memories for which to be thankful!
SIP: Great wine or mulled Warm Apple Cider
SAVOR: Turkey, Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Pie! It is served aboard Regent Seven Seas Cruises on Thanksgiving Day wherever you may be sailing!
Fun Facts about Thanksgiving:
What is the history of Thanksgiving?
The English sailed on the Mayflower to New England in the 1600’s. Those travelers, known as Pilgrims, settled in Plymouth Massachusetts. There they were taught by the neighboring Wampanoag Indians how to cultivate and harvest the land for food and crops. With a successful bounty in November 1621, Pilgrim Governor William Bradford organized the first “giving of thanks” feast and invited the Native Americans to share the meal as a show of appreciation for their help.
What was served at that first Thanksgiving meal?
There wasn’t a bit of turkey, stuffing or pumpkin pie in sight! The Pilgrims’ feast was very different from what is served at today’s Thanksgiving table. When the Pilgrims gave thanks for a plentiful harvest and their safe arrival to New England, they ate what they sowed, caught and hunted. The sharing of that first meal lasted three days. There was lobster, rabbit, venison, chicken, beans, corn, carrots, onions, cabbage and eggs. Sweet desserts came from honey and maple syrup, chestnuts and dried apples, cranberries and pears. And there were no forks! Guests used spoons, knives and their hands and drank fermented apple cider.
How did it go from a harvest feast to a national American holiday?
Colonies and states were already holding autumn feasts of thanks but in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln officially declared the last Thursday of November as the national day of giving thanks and called it Thanksgiving. In the 1940’s, Congress passed a federal law confirming Lincoln’s declaration. By that time turkey was readily available and unquestionably the meal’s star attraction surrounded by enticing extras.
Besides the United States, what other countries celebrate Thanksgiving?
All countries have feasting days that honor and give harvest thanks in their cultures. Yet Canada is the only other country that celebrates Thanksgiving the same way that the United States does. The main difference is the date- the Canadian annual day of thanks occurs on the second Monday of October.
What are popular side dishes and why?
Tastes and traditions come from what grows where and when with multiple interpretations. The abundant autumn crops are squash, corn, sweet and white potatoes, pumpkins, carrots and beans so these are the ingredients most commonly used for sides. Back then, developing colonies throughout the East Coast and the South put their own flavors and flair on them creating diverse regional options.
Why is cranberry sauce the condiment of choice?
The almighty cranberry is a fruit native to North America that grows wildly on the Northeastern seaboard. Indian tribes cultivated the berry and taught the Pilgrims how to use it for food, medicinal purposes and as fabric dye. Its popularity caught on and when mashed and mixed with honey, this red sauce became a colonial staple and continues as a must-have condiment.
What about pumpkin pie?
Pumpkins are the symbol of autumn since they are ripe and ready for picking in October and November. These Native American squash were exported first to France where they then sent the poupon (pumpkin) on to England. As a savory vegetable dish, it initially rivaled the sweet potato. When the Pilgrims arrived to New England they recognized the pumpkin and turned it into a dessert. Its texture and flesh made it the perfect pudding, since they weren’t baking yet (!) and it was delicious when seasoned with cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Pumpkin pudding went on to become pumpkin pie. It remains the traditional finale of the Thanksgiving meal even when surrounded by other sweet delicacies like apple pie, cranberry loaves and oatmeal cookies.