Eel, venison, and pumpkin pudding: where to get a really traditional Thanksgiving

As we sit down to eat huge quantities of turkey, pumpkin pie, and cranberries, we might want to remember that this traditional Thanksgiving feast isn’t so traditional. Like all traditions, Thanksgiving dinner has changed over time and has little in common with the event that inspired it.

Most history books mark the first Thanksgiving as the feast the Pilgrims had at Plymouth Colony after their first harvest in 1621, even though there had been a Thanksgiving feast at Berkeley Plantation in 1619, and various Thanksgiving feasts by Spanish settlers in Florida and the Southwest decades beforehand. Inconvenient historical facts aside, let’s look at what everyone ate on that “first”, most famous Thanksgiving.

No exact menu exists, but several accounts of the feast let us make a good guess at what they served, and even come up with a list of recipes. The Wampanoag tribe had saved the Pilgrims from starvation by showing them how to catch eels and gather food from the forest, so we can imagine eel would have been included. There’s also specific mention of wild turkey (much smaller than today’s hormone-stuffed factory turkeys), venison, and cornbread. Pumpkin pudding was also on the table. Pumpkin pie wasn’t invented until years later.

If this is all sounding tasty, why not try it out yourself? Plymouth, MA, runs a series of events every November to celebrate the season. This year they sponsored National Indian Pudding Day (cornmeal with molasses, yum!) to showcase what they call “one of the ugliest, yet great tasting, bicultural culinary treats”. There’s also a series of dinners with traditional fare, some of which you can still catch. If you’re too full to eat another bite, don’t worry because they’ll do it all again next year. You may also want to check out these other historic Thanksgiving places for their events.

Pass the Indian pudding, please, but hold the eel. I tried it in Denmark and I can’t say I’m a fan.

In New England this summer: girls, girls girls!

Looking for some all-girl entertainment this summer (not that kind)? New England has a lot for the ladies, so you can ditch the menfolk and go have a blast up north. New England Inns and Resorts has found a few deals below, and this is just the beginning of the girlfriend getaway packages available right now.

Girls Getaway Spa Package (John Carver Inn & Spa, Plymouth, MA): Pick up two nights and a $50 meal voucher to the Hearth n’ Kettle Restaurant & Tavern, two Spa Radiance Facials, two Beach Plum Foot Rituals and two massages (all at the luxurious Beach Plum Spa) – all in for $1,058.

The Art of Friendship Package (Inn at Harbor Hill Marina, Niantic, CT): For $605 to $870, you’ll get two nights, breakfast for two each morning, one private two-hour art class for two at the Art n’ Image Gallery & Studio (very cool, I think), two matted 11′ x 14′ scenic prints of Niantic Village and dinner for two at La Belle Aurore American Bistro. Sundays and Mondays aren’t available – as is the month of August. But, you can make arrangements for groups of up to 10.

Dharma Days (The Porches Inn, North Adams, MA): This package is for yoga-lovers who want to get away while getting “OM.” For $240, you’ll get a room for a night, breakfast the next morning and two yoga classes a day at Frog Lotus Yoga Studio (varying levels of yoga available). You can take advantage of this through November 12, 2009.

Weird things that drop on New Year’s Eve

Jeffery wrote about weird New Year’s traditions around the world. There are also weird items that drop at midnight New Year’s Eve.

Sure you can watch the ball drop at Time’s Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve, either in person or on television, or you can watch a walleye drop. A walleye is a fish caught in Lake Erie. Every year a 20-foot, 600 pound fiberglass walleye is dropped in Port Clinton, Ohio to ring in the New Year.

Port Clinton isn’t the only town to drop unusual items to mark a new beginning. I’ve known about Walleye Madness for year’s but came across this Reuters article with nine other unusual New Year’s drop items. As you will notice, most items are food related. The links lead to articles and references with information about each of these quirky events.