In 1841, Rev. Alexander Young published Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, detailing the relationship between Pilgrims and Thanksgiving. In the book, Young included a copy of a letter dated December 11, 1621 from Edward Winslow, one of the Plymouth colony leaders, describing a three-day feast enjoyed by the colonists and a large group of Native American guests held after the crops were harvested.
By the 1850s, almost every state and territory celebrated Thanksgiving, but it didn’t become a national holiday until President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1863, the result of a seventeen-year campaign by Godey’s Lady’s Book editor Sarah Josepha Hale. She was able to convince President Lincoln that a national Thanksgiving might help heal the nation after the devastating Civil War. Soon after, with the Victorian era and all its opulence, Thanksgiving dinner became the one of the most carefully planned menus of the year for most families, with roast turkey the main feature.
Oyster soup or consommé started the meal, and then came the roast turkey along with boiled onions, squash, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce or jelly, pickles, catsup, celery and apple sauce. Sherbet was served after the turkey to cleanse the palate and make room for chicken pie or another rich savory dish such as quail or roast duck. Desserts included treats such as pumpkin pie, sponge cake, cranberry tart, Thanksgiving (plum) pudding, fruits, nuts and ice cream. After enjoying all these delicious foods, guests would typically top off this festive dinner by retiring to the parlor to sip coffee and liquors. Some "food for thought" as you are celebrating the holiday this year. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
(Excerpt from The Thousand Dollar Dinner by Becky Diamond)