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Tastemakers: Hermann‘s Austrai Christmas Buffett/Samichlaus Bier

Rick Coates - November 29th, 2010
Thanksgiving Reflection
According to historical accounts, the first “Thanksgiving Dinner” (as we know it today) in America was 389 years ago when the pilgrims celebrated a feast with Native Americans following their first fall harvest near Plymouth, Massachusetts. But this feast was never repeated and actually, most pilgrims during that era observed a day of thanksgiving by fasting instead of feasting.
There were earlier celebrations going back to 1541 when Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, led a “thanksgiving” celebration in what would become Texas. In 1789 President George Washington declared November 26, 1789 as a national day of “thanksgiving and prayer.” But the tradition ceased in 1818 and was restored again in 1863 by President Lincoln and has been observed annually ever since. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt established the fourth Thursday of November as the official Thanksgiving Day.
Today the turkey takes center stage during the Thanksgiving Day celebration. Early writings suggest that the first Thanksgiving menu in 1621 consisted of venison, duck, turkey, fish, clams, lobster, fruits, pumpkin and squash. The founding fathers held wild turkeys in high regard, Ben Franklin suggested that the turkey should have been the nation’s symbol, and not the bald eagle. Franklin noted that a turkey was more courageous and would be “more likely to attack the Red Coats.” Statesman Alexander Hamilton declared in 1790 that “no citizen of the United States should refrain from eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day.” What would Hamilton think of a Tofu Turkey?
Another Thanksgiving Day staple is pumpkin pie. Early settlers were not fond of the roasted pumpkins served to them by Native Americans, suggesting that they lacked flavor. Eventually, they began roasting pumpkins with milk, honey and other spices. In 1796 when the first American cookbook was published (“American Cookery” written by Amelia Simmons) it included a recipe for pumpkin pudding; eventually this pudding was baked into a crust and evolved into what we know today as pumpkin pie.
This marks the eighth Thanksgiving Tastemakers/Bottoms Up since the inception of this column. In the past I have shared four different turkey recipes, from a Tofu Turkey to preparing a turkey in a trash can, to my favorite - and the recipe I use every year -- a turkey in a brown paper bag. A couple of times in this column I have created a Northern Michigan Thanksgiving Dinner Menu featuring several great items from around the region such as a turkey from Biehl’s Farm in Mancelona and pumpkin pies from the Grand Traverse Pie Company. Over the years I have recommended Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir as a great Thanksgiving red wine and a few bubblys from L Mawby in Suttons Bay, as sparkling wine (in my opinion) pairs best with turkey. Certainly, we here at the Express encourage you to keep your Thanksgiving Day dinner as local as possible.
For most of us, every day in America is a day of “thanksgiving.” Sure, we like to complain a lot, too many taxes, too much government, etc., but the reality is we have it very good here in this country. I wake each day knowing that my middle class lifestyle in Northern Michigan is pretty damn good and that even on bad days my life remains 95% better than those living in most of this world.
Here is a Thanksgiving tradition for your consideration: In 1983, when Iearned my Grandmother was dying of cancer I sat down and wrote her a note on Thanksgiving morning to tell her how important she had been in my life and how she had helped to shape the person I was becoming (my passion for cooking came from her and my other grandmother). After reading the letter she called me to her bedside to tell me how much that letter meant to her. I have continued that Thanksgiving tradition every year since, writing one letter each Thanksgiving morning to a person who has had great impact on my life from relatives to teachers, to bosses to friends.
My favorite Thanksgiving quote comes from Edward Stanford Martin, founder of the Harvard Lampoon and Life magazines: “Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.” Have a Happy Thanksgiving. --Rick Coates
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