What Does an American Thanksgiving Dinner Look Like?

A New World Thanksgiving

Almost every meal Americans enjoy comes from animals and plants that trace their origin to many continents.

Cattle, sheep, chickens, and pigs, for example, are all natives of the Old World brought to America soon after it was settled by Europeans. Wheat, rice, and many other plant foods are also newcomers that were unknown to Native Americans.

One annual feast mostly made from original American foods is Thanksgiving. This year why not create this traditional feast from entirely plants and animals that were found here before Columbus?

Turkeys

Turkey highlights the Thanksgiving dinner.  See our previous blog on this amazing and tasty bird. Here are plants native to North and South America to complement roast turkey:

Fruits and Vegetables

Corn: Corn has been grown in Central America for thousands of years. It’s cultivation gradually spread north and east and became a staple food for Native Americans.   When hungry Pilgrims landed in what became Massachusetts they found and stole caches of corn stored by local tribes, no doubt causing bad feelings.

Cranberries: Most commonly eaten fruits originated in Europe or Asia, but the cranberry is an American native.

Squash and Pumpkins:  Dozens of varieties of winter squash come in many shapes, colors and sizes, and the pumpkin is actually a squash. Butternut, Hubbard, acorn, or any other squash is delicious on the Thanksgiving dinner table, and dessert of pumpkin pie rounds out a tasty meal.

Potatoes: Common potatoes also originated in South or Central America and have been an important food for thousands of years. Mashed or baked, they go well with turkey, squash, and cranberries.

Sweet Potatoes: Originally from South America, these are among the most nutritious of foods. Similar yams have an African origin, so for a local dinner stick with sweet potatoes.

The sweetness from the Maples

Maple Syrup: While honey is made by bees that came from the Old World, maple syrup is America’s sweetener. It’s delicious on squash or sweet potatoes.

Beans: Native American gardens usually featured three plants: beans, squash, and corn. Commonly called The Three Sisters combined they create a balanced diet.

A diet of many foods that originally came from the Americas makes a delicious an interesting Holiday meal. We tend to thank modern geneticists for creating abundant food, but beans, corn, squash, sweet potatoes, maple syrup, cranberries, and turkey were all domesticated and enjoyed by Native Americans long before Columbus set sail.

March Magic

Don’t Miss March’s Launch of Spring

“If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy
it will in the end not produce food either,” Joseph Wood Krutch.

Too many people miss March’s majesty by staying indoors. After all it’s usually too warm to enjoy cross country skiing or ice fishing and it’s too early to plant the garden, go fishing, or play golf. March is the month of mud, fog, slowly melting grit-encrusted snowbanks, and clammy cold.

At Winding Pathways, we defy normal behavior and spend March days outdoors. It’s the month of great change and nature’s cavalcade is there for any observant person to enjoy.

Just consider the earth and how it’s turning toward our sun. Days lengthen the most around the March 21st Vernal Equinox. This means there is more sunlight each day allowing our yard to soak up more solar energy and spark spring’s revival of life.

March is the month to pull on mud boots and venture outdoors with eyes and ears attuned to the great seasonal change upon us. Here are some things to absorb with great joy:

 Birds.

Migration has started. Look up! Way up. Skeins of geese wing high overhead, perhaps so high they are mere specs. Binoculars bring them closer. And their distant and distinct song is music to winter weary ears. Salute their northward journey with a hearty, “Welcome Back!” Many smaller birds are on the prowl, but it may take a close look to notice them. Within a month juncos disappear shortly after red winged blackbirds make their annual debut. Sparrows begin crafting messy nests as goldfinches swap their drab winter outfits for glorious yellow garb. Barred owls fill the night air with haunting cries of WHO COOKS FOR YOU FOR YOU. Sometimes they are in a black oak almost over our roof and startle us awake with their lusty calls.

Mammals.

Even as winter’s song hangs on, baby squirrels are nestling in tree cavities and rapidly growing on a diet of mom’s rich milk. Squirrels are among nature’s most attentive mothers. In another month or two they encourage their babies to venture outdoors. Cottontails begin mating, buck deer begin growing new antlers, chipmunks are increasingly active, and raccoons and opossums prowl the nocturnal yard seeking dinner. On warm misty nights they gorge on nightcrawlers that have emerged on the lawn’s surface to mate.

 Plants.

We’re always delighted to find stinging nettles springing out of the still cold earth toward the end of March. There’s no better tasting or nutritious cooked green than a short pile of steaming bright green nettles on the dinner plate. It’s the best time of the year to enjoy tender dandelions leaves in salad. We like the non-bitter blanched leaves discovered under a carpet of oaks. By summer, these leaves are too tough and bitter to enjoy. But, now, they are delicious and nutritious. We can pluck them because we have a spray-free yard.

Spring’s miracle sound.

Sometimes this miraculous sound happens in March but always by early April. Nature’s most promising song comes at vespers each spring, usually in the calendar interval where Easter can fall – March into April. Spring peepers and chorus frogs herald the season each evening. As Christians worldwide celebrate Easter by saying HE IS RISEN, Chorus frogs and peepers enthusiastically seem to announce SPRING IS COMING!

Go Outside! Don’t miss the great vernal seasonal turn. March isn’t a month to huddle by the television. It’s a month to be outside.

 

 

 

 

Maple Syruping in the Back Yard

Winding Pathways has had fun this spring working with neighbor children on syruping. While the season here in Iowa has ended, in more northern and Eastern areas it is still in full swing. The 2015 syruping season may last longer in the north east because of the deep snow and continued cold. Take in the excitement of a syrup festival in your region and take time to tap a tree in your backyard. Things will pop fast, so go outside and play!