This Isn’t Your Mom’s Thanksgiving Day Spread

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

November 20, 2013

  • Eat like a Pilgrim this Thanksgiving
  • Did the Pilgrims really eat corn, cranberries and pumpkin pie?
  • Mimic your ancestors for a feast that can’t be beat

As a kid I always looked forward to Thanksgiving Day.

The delicious smells from the kitchen would wake me and my brothers earlier than usual. We would head out to the living room where the Macy’s Day Parade would be on the television.

Within hours extended family members would start arriving at the door with cheesy casseroles, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes and sweet-smelling pies.

And by one or two in the afternoon, my Mom would lay out a Thanksgiving Day feast that would send anyone’s taste buds straight to heaven.

Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and all of the other contributions sent our senses spiraling. By the time we finished eating, it was tough to keep our eyes open long enough to watch the football game.

I didn’t know it back then,but we were loading up on all sorts of things that sap the energy right out of you. Worse, these foods will lead you straight down the road to diabetes, obesity and a heart attack. (Thank goodness it only rolls around once a year!)

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What most people don’t realize is this: The foods we traditionally eat to celebrate Thanksgiving really don’t have anything to do with the original feast our ancestors enjoyed.

Just take a look at what filled their plates…
When we think of the original Thanksgiving Day feast, we automatically think of turkey, stuffing, gravy, corn, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie. In truth, it’s very unlikely any of these foods were the major components of this commemorative meal.

We do know that some sort of fowl was eaten at the meal, but it’s unknown whether it was turkey or not. It could just as easily been duck, goose or swan

We also know the Indian guests arrived at the feast with an offering of five deer.

However, it’s much more likely seafood – like mussels, clams, lobster, eel and fish – comprised a big part of the meal. These foods are all found in abundance in New England.

And remember… this feast was in celebration of the Pilgrim’s first harvest. This means the centerpiece of the table was likely a huge spread filled with fresh vegetables and fruits.

Cabbage, spinach, beans, lettuce and carrots are all indigenous to the region. Berries, grapes, apples and plums would have been in season, too.

It’s also true that corn would have been plentiful. And we often picture corn cobs stacked high on the feasting table. But there’s very little chance that happened.

You see, back then people didn’t eat really eat fresh corn. Instead, if they served it at all, the kernels would have been stripped off the cob and turned into a cornmeal used to make corn-mush and sweetened with molasses.

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As far as pumpkin pie, potatoes and cranberries potatoes go, it’s extremely doubtful any of these were on the table, either. You see, they didn’t have ovens to make pie. Potatoes hadn’t yet gained popularity in Europe, let alone the U.S. And cranberries were a very tart foreign food to the settlers. Plus, the process of boiling them down sweetening them hadn’t been discovered yet.

I don’t know where our current concept of Thanksgiving dinner came from. But I say it’s time to break modern-day “tradition” and get back to our roots.

Let’s give our families something they can really be thankful for: A healthy and wholesome dinner filled with friends, family and laughter.

Here’s what I imagine would be close to the type of dinner the Pilgrims ate back in 1621…

If you want to mimic your ancestors and create a feast that can’t be beat, I think you can come close to it. Here’s my version of a truly traditional Thanksgiving Day meal.

Go ahead and make your turkey. But don’t skimp. Make sure to purchase one that’s pasture-raised and organic. Then, instead of stuffing it with processed breading and cornmeal, try something a little different.

Some people think stuffing the turkey helps keep it moist and add flavor. But there are better ways to make a juicy turkey that’s bursting with flavor. I like stuffing mine with garlic, celery, onion and some of my favorite fresh herbs. At recipe sites online, there are all sorts of other ideas – flavorful and healthy.

Turn your Thanksgiving into a seafood festival. Add some of your favorite fish to the meal and broil it nicely in the oven. You can even add shrimp cocktail or shrimp scampi to the menu.

And if you like mollusks it’s always fun to add them to any meal. Just make sure they are closed when you buy them, otherwise they might not be fresh.

When you’re ready to cook them up, soak them in water, scrub them with a stiff brush, toss them in a pot and cover them with cold water. Bring them to a boil over medium heat and remove them with tongs as soon as they open. (If you don’t remove them as soon as they open, the meat inside will turn rubbery.)

Keep ham off the menu. I know a lot of families that include ham in their Thanksgiving Day meals. However, getting ham off the dinner table is something I heartily recommend. It’s high in salt and fat and just not good for you.

But you don’t have to replace it with venison like our ancestors did. Venison can be a little “gamey” for some people. Instead, I suggest replacing it with organic pasture-raised lamb.

My favorite lamb dish is rack of ribs, and it’s surprisingly simple to make.

Just create a rub of olive oil, sea salt, pepper, garlic, sage, thyme and rosemary. Coat the meat with the rub and sear it in the oven at 450 degrees for about 7 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350° and cook until the thermometer reaches 125° for rare or 135° for medium rare. You can cook it longer if you want, but it will dry out.

Go to town on the fresh veggies. You don’t have to stick with the ones the Pilgrim’s ate. Choose what’s local to your region… greens, carrots, peas, green beans, fresh salad greens… whatever entices your taste buds.

What about desert? How about a simple mix of berries topped with freshly coconut whipped cream? It’s healthy and quite delicious.

To make the cream, just put a can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight. When you open it, drain the water off the top and whip up the solid coconut cream with your beaters. Add a pinch of natural stevia to sweeten it up even more.

If you’ve really “just gotta have” a pumpkin pie, here’s a healthy and tasty recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple you can check out. I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds pretty enticing.

In the meantime, have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

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