Move the Pumpkin Pie!

People have always had celebrations of Thanksgiving: from the Continental Congress proclaiming the first Thanksgiving in 1777, to the final adaptation in 1941 of the third Thursday in November as our National American Holiday. It is both relatively modern and quietly ancient at the same time. These events would have been as individual as those who chose to celebrate them. One could give thanks for so many things- a substantial crop yield, the return to health of a loved one, a good investment, the birth of a child, to celebrate or to promote the coming year’s crops, on and on and on.

Though we don’t celebrate what visitors know today as a modern Thanksgiving at either of our kitchens, the manner in which we dine on this national holiday is as close as modern Americans will come to an 18th century dining experience.   For example, most people do not eat a huge breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, rather than saving up room for the big meal in the middle of the day.  Dinner, for most households just a little big earlier, usually beginning sometime between 3 and 5 p.m.  After a course or two, dessert is served.  Once guests leave it is not unusual to seek out a snack, perhaps a bite of turkey or a mouthful of stuffing, at 9 p.m. just to get you through the night.  Breakfast the next morning is pumpkin pie, coffee and maybe a turkey sandwich.  Why waste?

This is very similar to our everyday experiences for many of our ancestors, though, like today, it would vary household to household, family to family, person to person. For someone in the aristocratic and gentry classes this usually meant two courses, followed by a dessert course. To the modern diner a dish such as an apple pie or a custard tart would be a dessert item.  Modern folks think- first your savory then your sweet. 18th century people see no need for that distinction. They think- heavy first, then light. Thus, that apple pie goes right alongside the roasted beef and potatoes, or THE PUMPKIN PIE next to your TURKEY. That’s right!

Here’s a question to ponder- why does one serve sweet potatoes, usually covered in copious amounts of sugar and butter, with the turkey but, the pumpkin pie, which is also a sweet VEGETABLE dish, goes after the meal? Does that make sense?  To our 18th century foremothers it does not.

So, on behalf of Historic Foodways we give you all permission to move the pumpkin pie next to the turkey this Thanksgiving. Your guests will eat smaller bits of it, as they have more choice and variety. They will no longer have to wait for the pie but can enjoy it right along with everything else. We suggest finishing up your meal with a box of chocolates or some small candies.

Enjoy and best wishes!

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2 Responses to “Move the Pumpkin Pie!”

  1. September 22nd, 2018

    Michael Joslin says:


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