Here it is Thanksgiving Day in Shanghai. Generally this day passes here without too much notice, most expats choosing to celebrate the day on the weekend when time and friends are more plentiful.
This year having more time, though fewer old friends around, we decided to stick with American tradition and celebrate on the day. As I began what turns out to be an almost all day of cooking, I started to think about the poor Pilgrim wives who were informed they were having the new neighbors, the Wampanoags, over for a 3 day feast. The original “dinner” was more like the original 3-day weekend as the feast was recorded to have been three days long with plenty of hunting and entertainment, but probably no charades. Back to the Pilgrim ladies faced with meal preparations and no oven. Clearly that impacted the now famous menu.
Historians have speculated that the menu did not include many of the American favorites that grace Thanksgiving tables these days. The Pilgrims did not have ovens, so that means no pumpkin pie, although pumpkin and squash would have been part of the meal. No oven means no bread as well which means no bread stuffing. However records report that a stuffing of seeds and nuts would have been prepared. Yummy!
What we do know about the first Thanksgiving meal is that it would have pleased all my Paleo diet friends. There was plenty of meat, from fowl ( turkey and other birds) to a variety of seafood to venison( deer meat), contributed by the Wampanoag neighbors.
Don’t think all that turkey made the natives sleepy either. It is another Thanksgiving myth that the amino acid , tryptophan , found in turkey, is what brings on the post-meal nap. Studies have shown that there isn’t enough tryptophan in a serving ( or in two servings) of turkey to have a drowsy effect. It is the modern stuffing and potatoes, both high carbohydrate foods, that are to blame for the yawns and the race to the couch.
Now that we have cleared up that myth be sure to have an extra serving of turkey. We don’t eat turkey often in Shanghai but we should. Turkey is a low fat meat, rich in every B vitamin. All the B’s are great for your immune system, important in producing the energy we need to go for that post meal walk and support our liver after the biggest meal of the year.
Besides the B vitamins, turkey is a great source of selenium. Selenium, a trace mineral, is gaining notice for its antioxidant properties and the role it plays in thyroid function and metabolism.
I doubt the Pilgrim wives thought about the nutrient content of their meal and I hope you don’t worry about it too much either. Afterall we need to remember that Thanksgiving is a day to spend with family and friends and to be grateful that we have bread stuffing and pumpkin pie.
Eat Well, Live Well and Happy Thanksgiving!