Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thanksgiving Menus Part 3

This tidbit was originally published in Table Talk ©1899 and while it doesn't give the recipes for the menu it's an interesting piece comparing the old with the new. Which I imagine was on everyone's minds in 1899 as they were ending the century and beginning the next a few weeks later.

THE feasting and good cheer now so general on Thanksgiving day would have shocked the sturdy old Puritan with whom the observance of the day originated. As first kept, the festival was essentially religious, and few frivolities would have been tolerated that were not allowable on the Sabbath.
When we remember the stern, uncompromising religion of those early New England Sabbaths, we can form a very fair opinion of the difference between their Thanksgiving day and our own.
Yet the real spirit of the day—to give thanks—was more in evidence than it is in our own time. It is questionable, amid the stir and feasting and pleasant excitement incidental to this festival as now kept, if we do not forget, or remember only dimly, the reason for all this jollity and good cheer.
The character of the day has changed so gradually that it is only by looking backward we can realize what it meant in its beginning.
Truly, when on February 22, 1631, the good ship hove in sight, laden with provisions for the brave, starving Massachusetts colony, every soul must have thrilled with the rapture of praise and Thanksgiving. Our need is never so desperate as was theirs, and were we to strive our utmost we could not enumerate all the mercies for which we should offer thanks. Dangers are often averted we do not even dream of, and blessings are showered upon us daily, which we except merely as our just dues.
The truest gratitude is but shown, not alone in feasting our dear ones, but in doing all we can to make those less fortunate realize that Thanksgiving is for them as well. Even if our feast is necessarily less elaborate, let us share it with those who might otherwise go without.
Thanksgiving is the day of the year for family re-union, and as such should be respected. No one should call on that day, formally or informally, unless by special invitation. If there are many children in the gathering, one should plan to make their day so enjoyable it will long be remembered. Special arrangements should be made for their comfort and diversion, and this not alone for their benefit, but incidentally for their elders as well.
If a large hall or room can be given over to the little ones' use, not only will their enjoyment be heightened, but it will be a rest and relief to their parents as well. A prettily laid table, made bright with rich colored chrysanthemums, should be prepared for them, and everything possible should be put within reach, to make the task of waiting on them less wearisome. The
carving for them should all be done at a side table, or even in the kitchen. If one or two children of a larger growth wish to preside at the table so much the better. Provide an abundance of nuts, apples, oranges and wholesome confectionery.
The house, and particularly the diningroom, should be suitably decorated for Thanksgiving. Autumn leaves, chrysanthemums, asters, palms, ferns, and other growing plants, may all be effectively utilized for their purpose. Dried grasses and grains also make handsome decorations. Certainly, if the festival is to be celebrated, an air of festivity should pervade the home. Open fires give an appearance of comfort and good cheer nothing else can so well impart. Let them glow in ruddy splendor wherever possible on Thanksgiving Day.
As much of the cooking should be done in advance as circumstances will permit. Mince meat and plum pudding are better for being made at least a week or two before they are used. Never try a new recipe for either of these thanksgiving dishes, without first testing it in smaller proportions.
If the dinner is to be served before evening, a prettier effect is secured by shutting out the daylight, and illuminating with the soft mellow light of candles.
When old people are to be present make the festival savor of their own early days as much as possible, without conflicting with those who prefer more modern ideas. Years ago it was the custom to load the table with all sorts of dainties, but the European fashion of serving a dinner in courses is infinitely more pleasing and always to be preferred. With the Thanksgiving dinner, however, it is well to strike a happy medium between the old and the newer forms. The vegetables may all be placed on the table with the turkey and chicken pie, and cranberry sauce or jelly, pickles, catsup, celery and apple sauce, may all be served with the roast turkey, in deference to the dear old-fashioned guests who may be there. By all means include Thanksgiving pudding, pumpkin pie, and a rich old-fashioned loaf cake in the menu.
Serve a sherbet between the turkey and chicken pie to restore freshness to the palate, and let the salad course and dessert be served as usual. Coffee may be passed at the table, but is generally preferred in the parlor. The Thanksgiving dinner is usually served with more regard to old fashioned comfort than to strict ceremony, but this of course applies only to the family gathering, where children and parents and grandparents, with aunts uncles and cousins, are assembled together, and not to the ordinary formal dinner.
—Mary Foster Snider.

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