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15 Forgotten Thanksgiving Dishes

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Mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and, of course, turkey may be the stars of your Turkey Day table, but the earliest Thanksgiving dishes looked—and tasted—slightly different. And sometimes included eel. Here are 15 of them.

1. TURKEY SOBAHEG 

Though turkey played a role in the earliest Thanksgivings, it wasn’t always the star. One popular way to incorporate it into the meal was in a “Sobaheg” (the Wampanoag tribe’s word for stew). Among the dish’s ingredients: a half-pound of beans, white hominy corn, sunflower seed meats, and clam juice. (The experts at Plimoth Plantation even have a recipe.)

2. VENISON ROAST

It’s believed that venison roast, not turkey, was the centerpiece of the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony. In 1621, Edward Winslow recalled the feast he and his fellow Pilgrims shared with the Wampanoags, writing: “… Amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom 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 others.”

3. ONION SAUCE

Onion sauce, which was very popular in the 17th century, was an early incarnation of the modern gravy. Used for dipping meats, onion sauce was made from onions and turkey drippings. More contemporary interpretations of it include sugar, vinegar, and breadcrumbs.

4. DRESSED CRAB

The earliest Thanksgiving menus leaned heavily on seafood, like eel, mussels, and dressed crab, a sweet delicacy that’s cooked in its own shell and seasoned with sugar and cinnamon.

5. APPLE PUDDING

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Apple pudding is a sweet pudding, made from cream and apples, that is either baked or boiled in a pie-like dumpling crust. The recipe appeared in 1841’s Early American Cookery: The Good Housekeeping by Sarah Josepha Hale, who is considered the “Mother of Thanksgiving.”

6. BOILED BREAD

Texturally, boiled bread is similar to a bagel or pretzel, in that it’s soft and chewy. Taste-wise, it’s a lot different: It’s a mix of cornmeal, flour, dried berries (like cranberries, blueberries, or currants—or a mix of all three), and crushed nuts or seeds. The mixture is then formed into patties, dropped into a pot of boiling water, and considered “done” when it floats to the top.

7. CURD FRITTERS

More like a crepe, a recipe for curd fritters—which calls for five eggs, curds from a soft cheese like ricotta or cottage, wheat or corn flour, salt, oil or butter, and sugar—appeared in The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin, which was published in 1594.

8. NASAUMP

Similar to porridge, Nasaump is made from cornmeal, berries, and crushed nuts or seeds and could be served as either a sweet or savory dish. Puritan Roger Williams described it as “a meale pottage, unparched. From this the English call their Samp, which is Indian corn, beaten and boiled, and eaten hot or cold with milk and butter, which are mercies beyond the Natives plaine water.”

9. BAKED EEL

Believe it or not, eels were a very important food for Native Americans and Pilgrims during the 17th century. They were a great source of protein, and especially popular during the long New England winters, when they were easier to catch. To make baked eel, chop an eel into three sections and season it with salt, pepper, and ginger. Put the pieces with butter and onions into a baking tin and cook for about an hour in a 360-degree oven.

10. STEWED PUMPKIN

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One of the earliest recipes from New England, stewed pumpkin was known as a “standing dish” because it was eaten almost every day. In the 1600s, British traveler John Josselyn wrote about the dish in his book, Two Voyages to New England, in which he shared that it caused gas.

11. CHESTNUT FRITTERS

American chestnuts were considered much sweeter than their European counterparts, so Colonial cooks often incorporated chestnuts into desserts and snacks. They were also used in savory dishes like stuffing and fried chestnut fritters, which were served with oysters.

12. HASTY PUDDING

Also known as “Indian Pudding” when it came to Colonial America, Hasty Pudding is a sweetened porridge that was served as an appetizer. It was made from cornmeal or molasses, which were prevalent in the New World, instead of tapioca or oatmeal, which were not.

13. SYLLABUB

Dating back as far as the Middle Ages, syllabub was a very popular dessert in Colonial America. It’s a parfait-like treat made with whipped cream, white sugar, and lemon juice, but can also be made with Amaretto for an added punch.

14. MARLBOROUGH PIE

Before the modern apple pie, there was the Marlborough pie—a staple dessert that dates back to the 17th century. It’s an apple pie made with a rich custard base that was fused with sherry and shredded apples or applesauce instead of apple slices. Marlborough pie was served for the holidays, but fell out of fashion after the Civil War.

15. SKILLET CRANBERRIES

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Made with either brandy or rum, skillet cranberries were a simple dish, and one of John Adams’s favorite foods. And yes, it’s as simple as it sounds: cranberries and raw sugar were baked in a skillet for over an hour, then deglazed with alcohol.

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Noriyuki Saitoh
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Art
Japanese Artist Crafts Intricate Insects Using Bamboo
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Noriyuki Saitoh

Not everyone finds insects beautiful. Some people think of them as scary, disturbing, or downright disgusting. But when Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh looks at a discarded cicada shell or a feeding praying mantis, he sees inspiration for his next creation.

Saitoh’s sculptures, spotted over at Colossal, are crafted by hand from bamboo. He uses the natural material to make some incredibly lifelike pieces. In one example, three wasps perch on a piece of honeycomb. In another, two mating dragonflies create a heart shape with their abdomens.

The figures he creates aren’t meant to be exact replicas of real insects. Rather, Saitoh starts his process with a list of dimensions and allows room for creativity when fine-tuning the appearances. The sense of movement and level of detail he puts into each sculpture is what makes them look so convincing.

You can browse the artist’s work on his website or follow him on social media for more stunning samples from his portfolio.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Noriyuki Saitoh.

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History
P.G. Wodehouse's Exile from England
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You don’t get more British than Jeeves and Wooster. The P.G. Wodehouse characters are practically synonymous with elevenses and Pimm’s. But in 1947, their creator left England for the U.S. and never looked back.

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, better known as P.G., was living in northern France and working on his latest Jeeves and Wooster novel, Joy in the Morning, when the Nazis came knocking. They occupied his estate for a period of time before shipping him off to an internment camp in Germany, which he later said he found pretty pleasant:

“Everybody seems to think a German internment camp must be a sort of torture chamber. It was really perfectly normal and ordinary. The camp had an extraordinarily nice commander, and we did all sorts of things, you know. We played cricket, that sort of thing. Of course, I was writing all the time.”

Wodehouse was there for 11 months before being suddenly released to a hotel in Berlin where a man from the German foreign office named Werner Plack was waiting to meet him. Wodehouse was somewhat acquainted with Plack from a stint in Hollywood, so finding him waiting didn't seem out of the ordinary. Plack advised Wodehouse to use his time in the internment camp to his advantage, and suggested writing a radio series about his experiences to be broadcast in America.

As Plack probably suspected, Wodehouse’s natural writing style meant that his broadcasts were light-hearted affairs about playing cricket and writing novels, This didn’t sit too well with the British, who believed Wodehouse was trying to downplay the horrors of the war. The writer was shocked when MI5 subjected him to questioning about the “propaganda” he wrote for the Germans. "I thought that people, hearing the talks, would admire me for having kept cheerful under difficult conditions," he told them in 1944. "I would like to conclude by saying that I never had any intention of assisting the enemy and that I have suffered a great deal of mental pain as the result of my action."

Wodehouse's contemporary George Orwell came to his aid, penning a 1945 an essay called “In Defense of P.G. Wodehouse." Sadly, it didn’t do much to sway public opinion. Though MI5 ultimately decided not to prosecute, it seemed that British citizens had already made up their minds, with some bookstores and libraries even removing all Wodehouse material from their shelves. Seeing the writing on the wall, the author and his wife packed up all of their belongings and moved to New York in 1947. They never went back to England.

But that’s not to say Wodehouse didn’t want to. In 1973, at the age of 91, he expressed interest in returning. “I’d certainly like to, but at my age it’s awfully difficult to get a move on. But I’d like to go back for a visit in the spring. They all seem to want me to go back. The trouble is that I’ve never flown. I suppose that would solve everything."

Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack before he could make the trip. But the author bore no ill will toward his native country. When The Paris Review interviewed Wodehouse in 1973, they asked if he resented the way he was treated by the English. “Oh, no, no, no. Nothing of that sort. The whole thing seems to have blown over now,” he said.  He was right—the Queen bestowed Wodehouse with a knighthood two months before his death, showing that all was forgiven.

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