Thanksgiving: Something to Chew On

Thanksgiving, as we observe it now, is a mixture of pageantry and intimate family gatherings, but how much do you think about its history beyond the most superficial narratives?


A Short History of Modern Thanksgiving Foods


Modern Thanksgiving was “born” in 1846 by Sarah Josepha Hale. While she was the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Hale advocated for the establishment of a formally observed national holiday on the last Thursday of November. Hale published a remarkable body of recipes to feed the new Thanksgiving tradition, which follow while boosting the popularity of her publication. From that point on, commercial interests shaped the evolution of how Americans would envision “authentic” Thanksgiving cuisine. During the early 20th companies battled for our palates and some won big, like Ocean Spray cranberries or Swift and Company’s Butterball turkey. Other marketing tactics, like Welch’s grape juice or Diamond walnuts, weren’t as successful and didn’t earn a place in our minds as traditional Thanksgiving fare.


Why “Thanksgiving”?


While “giving thanks” fits nicely with the religious sensibilities of Puritan settler colonists that are at the center of Thanksgiving mythology, was the first Thanksgiving really a harvest feast? Som