Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Culinary Arts Museum on the road

On Tuesday, November 17th our Event and Program Coordinator, Kristin Zosa Puleo, traveled to the Newport Public Library to talk to a group of 5-12 year old children (and their parents) about the origins of Thanksgiving.

Did you know...

The Pilgrims did not make their first landing at Plymouth Rock.  When the English Separatists set sail from Holland (they were exiled to Holland when they decided to split from the Church of England), they were aiming for the New York area.  The sea winds instead led them to the tip of Cape Cod, and the Mayflower landed in Provincetown.  From there, some men left to explore the area in smaller boats, and they decided that Plymouth would make a better area to build a settlement. 

The English Settlers and the Wampanoags did not actually plan to sit down together for his harvest celebration.  As part of the the festivities, the English were practicing their military drills.  The Wampanoags heard the gunfire, and Massasoit showed up with 90 of his men to find out what was happening.  When the Native Americans saw that the English were simply celebrating their harvest, Massasoit sent his men out to gather deer to add to the meal (the Settlers had already gathered enough wild fowl to last them a week!).  Wampanoag women and children joined the feast later on, and the entire celebration lasted for three days!!

Turkey was probably not the centerpiece of the meal in 1621.  In fact, there were a variety of proteins on the table during those three days.  In addition to venison and various wild birds, there was also lobster, clams, eel, and cod.  There was no pumpkin pie, no cranberry sauce, and no sweet potato casserole.  Since there was no sugar, flour, wheat, or butter available it would have been impossible to make any of these sweet treats.  As for the sweet potatoes, well, those didn't exist in New England at the time.  Those were an addition that came much later, from the folks who celebrated the holiday in the southern half of the country. 

And finally...Thanksgiving was not made an official holiday until 1863, as proclaimed by President Lincoln.  A woman by the name of Sarah Josepha Hale, editor for Godey's Lady's Book, began a one-woman campaign to nationalize the holiday.  In addition to including this petition in the magazine year after year, she began writing letters to the White House in 1846 requesting that the holiday become nationalized.  It was Lincoln that finally heeded to Hale's request.  He believed that the new national holiday would serve to unify the country under the stress of the Civil War.

OK, one more fun fact.  When Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation, he set the day to be the last Thursday of November.  In the 1930s, in the midst of the depression, retailers sent a request to the Federal Government requesting that the holiday be moved back one week to give shoppers an extra week between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Their argument was that the majority of people did not start Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving, and when the holiday fell on the last day of the month, sales suffered.  FDR agreed to the change, and this put America in an uproar.  Some states flat out refused to recognize the change (the change was made in August of 1939 for November of the same year), and others (such as Texas) held two holidays.  Calendars had to be changed, and travel plans rescheduled.  Because of the upheaval, and because of the confusion the change caused, this date change was made into law in December of 1941.


And remember...we will be closed for Thanksgiving break.  See our holiday hours below. 

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