Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hale and making Thanksgiving a national holiday

Last Thanksgiving I wrote a bit about Lydia Child, this time I'll present the more well known connection - Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788-1879). She worked for years to get Thanksgiving recognized and celebrated as a national holiday. Her description of a dinner in New England, 1827 and recipes...

Born in New Hampshire, she moved to Boston to be the editor of Ladies' Magazine from 1827 to 1836. She also wrote books and poems, one was Mary had a Little Lamb. For 40 years, starting in 1837, Hale lived in Philadelphia and was the editor of Godey's Lady's Book

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national holiday.

Hale described a Thanksgiving dinner in her 1827 book Northwood; a tale of New England:

"...considered an honor for a man to sit down to his Thanksgiving supper surrounded by a large family: The provision is always sufficient for a multitude, every farmer in the country being, at this season of the year, plentifully supplied, and every one proud of displaying his abundance and prosperity.

Image 1 of 1, Day of National Thanksgiving. By the President of The roasted turkey took precedence on this occasion, being placed at the head of the table; and well did it become its lordly station, sending forth the rich odour of its savoury stuffing, and finely covered with the frost of the basting. At the foot of the board a surloin of beef, flanked on either side by a leg of pork and joint of mutton, seemed placed as a bastion to defend innumerable bowls of gravy and plates of vegetables disposed in that quarter. A goose and pair of ducklings occupied side stations on the table, the middle being graced, as it always is on such occasions, by that rich burgomaster of the provisions, called a chicken pie. This pie, which is wholly formed of the choicest parts of fowls, enriched and seasoned with a profusion of butter and pepper, and covered with an excellent puff paste, is, like the celebrated pumpkin pie, an indispensable part of a good and true Yankee Thanksgiving; the size of the pie usually denoting the gratitude of the party who prepares the feast. ... Plates of pickles, preserves, and butter, and all the necessaries for increasing the seasoning of the viands to the demand of each palate, filled the interstices on the table, leaving hardly sufficient room for the plates of the company, a wine glass and two tumblers for each, with a slice of wheat bread lying on one of the inverted tumblers.

A side table was literally loaded with the preparations for the second course, placed there to obviate the necessity of leaving the apartment during the repast. Mr. Romelee keeping no domestic, the family were to wait on themselves, or on each other. There was a huge plumb pudding, custards, and pies of every name and description ever known in Yankee land; yet the pumpkin pie occupied the most distinguished niche. There were also several kinds of rich cake, and a variety of sweetmeats and fruits.

On the sideboard was ranged a goodly number of decanters and bottles; the former filled with currant wine and the latter with excellent cider and ginger beer, a beverage Mrs. Romelee prided herself on preparing in perfection. There were no foreign wines or ardent spirits, Squire Romelee being a consistent moralist; and while he deprecated the evils an indulgence in their use was bringing on his countrymen, and urged them to correct the pernicious habit, he practised what he preached. Would that all declaimers against intemperance followed his example.
Two pumpkin recipes from Hale's Ladies' New Book of Cookery (NY: 1852) included one American the other English.

Pumpkin Pie (American).—Take out the seeds, and pare the pumpkin or squash ; but in taking out the seeds do not scrape the inside of the pumpkin ; the part nearest the seed is the sweetest; then stew the pumpkin, and strain it through a sieve or cullender. To a quart of milk, for a family pie, 3 eggs are sufficient. Stir in the stewed pumpkin with your milk and beaten-up eggs, till it is as thick as you can stir round rapidly and easily. If the pie is wanted richer make it thinner, and add sweet cream or another egg or two; but even 1 egg to a quart of milk makes "very decent pies." Sweeten with molasses or sugar; add 2 tea-spoonsful of salt, 2 table-spoonsful of sifted cinnamon, and 1 of powdered ginger; but allspice may be used, or any other spice that may be preferred. The peel of a lemon grated in gives it a pleasant flavor. The more eggs, says an American authority, the better the pie. Some put 1 egg to a gill of milk. Bake about an hour in deep plates, or shallow dishes, without an upper crust, in a hot oven.

Pumpkin Pie (English).—Take out the seeds, and grate the pumpkin till you come to the outside skin. Sweeten the pulp; add a little ground allspice, lemon peel and lemon juice; in short, flavor it to the taste. Bake without an upper crust.

©2010 Patricia Bixler Reber

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