Thanksgiving Day (Canada)
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart ..."
~ The Jumblies, Edward Lear (1812-1888)
Cranberries were a staple for Native Americans, who harvested wild cranberries and used them in a variety of remedies, drinks, and foods, including pemmican, a combination paste of dried berries, meats, and fats. Sailors used cranberries as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy. During World War II, American troops required about one million kilograms of dehydrated cranberries a year!
Happy Thanksgiving to all Scottish Country Dancers in Canada with a special dessert dances featuring a classic accompaniment to many holiday dinners, cranberries.
According to some historians, the first celebration of Thanksgiving in North America occurred during the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England, in search of the Northwest Passage. His third voyage, to the Frobisher Bay area of Baffin Island in the present Canadian Territory of Nunavut, set out with the intention of starting a small settlement. His fleet of fifteen ships was outfitted with men, materials, and provisions. However, the loss of one of his ships through contact with ice, along with many of the building materials, was to prevent him from doing so. The expedition was plagued by ice and freak storms, which at times scattered the fleet; on meeting again at their anchorage in Frobisher Bay, "... Mayster Wolfall, a learned man, appointed by Her Majesty's Counsel to be their minister and preacher, made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankful to God for their strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places ... ."
While no records exist of the exact bill of fare of these first feasts, the abundance of fowl ensured a plentiful food supply for both settlers and Native Americans. Wild turkey was plentiful in the region and a common food source, but it is just as likely other birds such as ducks, geese and swans were cooked, and instead of more recent bread-based stuffing, herbs, onions or nuts might have been added to the birds for extra flavor.
Fruits indigenous to the region included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries and cranberries, which Native Americans ate and used as a natural dye. The earliest settlers would have been familiar with cranberries but would not necessarily have made sauces and relishes with them. It was only later when sugars and sweeteners became more accessible did cooks begin boiling cranberries with sugar and using the mixture as an accompaniment for meats.
For a modern recipe with traditional ingredients, click the pictures below for a Brown-Butter Cranberry tart.
And to see the Cranberry Tart dance performed by the Baton Rouge Scottish Country Dancers in 2010, see the video below.