A Thanksgiving Original:
Mom brings the steaming pot to the table. "I hope it will be alright," she says. "I've never tried this before. It's Venison Stew."
My Dad ladles an ample portion onto each of our plates. The stew emanates a rich, savory aroma and there are lovely chunks of meat surrounded by colorful vegetables in a thick, brown gravy. Just days before Thanksgiving, Mom's timing couldn't be better. Without realizing it, she's selected a "Thanksgiving Original" to serve us in advance of the national holiday.
There's only one written eye-witness account of the meal that we now call "The First Thanksgiving" that took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. The summary tells us how little we actually know about the so-called Pilgrims, and challenges a number of widely held beliefs. Namely, that turkey was the main dish served at that first Thanksgiving.
According to a letter written by Plymouth colonist Edward Winslow, who describes a harvest celebration shared with the Native American Wampanoag People, "... for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and the others. And althought it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
No turkey, but venison, confirmed in this first-person account. Mom's hearty "Hunter Stew" is much like what they would have eaten as they gave thanks, nearly four hundred years ago. The meat is smooth and full of earthy flavor, mingled with carrots, celery, red bell pepper, red potatoes and spices. As we eat, we are transported to that moment when visitors to the New World gave thanks, and it tastes incredibly good.
© 2006 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved