When the Pilgrims and Wampanoag gathered at Plymouth Colony in 1621, they “dined” on wild fowl, corn in bread or porridge, venison, possibly wild turkeys, eel, lobster, clams and mussels, all according to Smithsonian.com.
Because they were more readily available, geese or ducks were the wildfowl of choice instead of turkeys. Swans and flocks of pigeons were plentiful as well. Apparently passenger pigeons “were so thick in the 1620s that you could hear them a quarter-hour before you saw them. A man could shoot at the birds in flight and bring down 100.”
Small birds were often roasted on a spit, while larger birds were boiled. Some were actually boiled first and then roasted to finish, or roasted and then boiled to achieve a darker sauce.
Since the Indians generously taught the invading pilgrims how to plant native crops, the English colonists seemed to have turnips, carrots, onions, garlic and pumpkins, although they lacked the wheat to make pumpkin pies. White and sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce hadn’t arrived yet.
Thanksgiving as we know it, resulted from a long campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the trendsetting magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book. Starting in 1827, Hale petitioned 13 presidents and finally convinced Abraham Lincoln that an annual Thanksgiving would unite the country in the midst of the Civil War. Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, after which Hale published more than 10 cookbooks that included her ideas of Thanksgiving recipes.
Speaking of menus, Sonoma’s venerable Swiss Hotel’s much-rumored new menu is out and cooking. Here are some new menu items, although I might accidentally mention something that was already offered.
Check out new starters of wood oven baked meatballs ($9) and buratta with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil – nothing like being an extra virgin) and roasted peppers on crostini ($13.50 lunch and dinner).
Lunch brings a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich ($11.50). Butternut squash ravioli now served with a divine Balsamic drizzle; penne pasta includes sweet sausage, mushrooms and tomato cream sauce ($15); and they have added spaghetti and clams with toasted garlic, chili flakes and white wine sauce ($18).
New entrees at dinner include pork spareribs with spicy tomato sauce, Swiss chard and creamy polenta ($18); pan-roasted half chicken with lemon-caper pan sauce, Swiss chard, and fingerling potatoes ($19); and Brussels sprouts compliment the filet steak ($28). Corkage is $12. 18 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 938-2884.
Pat Benfer and Cheryl Ytreeide just opened Savory Spice Shop in the Marketplace Shopping Center near Vineyard Jewelers. The duo also has a Savory Spice in Santa Rosa, both stores being franchises of the master company started in Denver. Mike and Janet Johnston had the bright idea to franchise their successful retail store there, where all of the imports arrive and are packaged for distribution to the burgeoning spice franchise outlets. Sample tastes are encouraged from designated jars. When we accidentally poured too much into our hands, they said to just drop it on the floor, “The place needs to start smelling like spices,” which it didn’t yet.
You will find lots of spices from all over the world, including special sections for Moroccan spices and curry mixtures from various countries. Salts and salt mixtures abound. I bought the Herbes de Provençe Seasoning Salt and tried it on some Rocky, Jr. chicken thighs. The contents were mostly salt, but I found the coarse grains too large to fit through the sprinkle holes in the plastic under lid. Using the larger side of the lid, you have to be very careful to not over salt whatever you are cooking.