Festivals and celebrations dedicated to gratitude and thanksgiving are as old as mankind. The early cavemen left behind in drawings and cave carvings symbols of their gratitude to a deity that provided them with food, water and sustenance. When the planting of crops and their harvest came into being there was even more reason to express gratitude, and rituals expressing thanks were created.
Those early pioneers who bravely set forth to a new land fraught with danger and uncertainty had much to be thankful for on that first Thanksgiving Day so very long ago. Had it not been for the Native Americans who extended friendship those settlers would have perished in a hostile land.
Our Native Americans celebrated a day of thanksgiving long before those settlers came to the New World. And their ancestors continue to offer up gratitude and humility to a generous God and to a bountiful nature.
While most Americans are enjoying traditional foods, many of which were introduced by those Native Americans to the Pilgrims, the descendents of those original Indians are celebrating also.
Each harvest season there are numerous celebrations by Native Americans who still retain the respect and reverence for their forefathers. One of the most famous is held at the Cherokee Reservation in Cherokee, N.C. Here visitors have an opportunity to partake in familiarizing themselves with the culture and traditions of the Cherokee tribe. The festivities go on for a week and are held on the grounds of the Cherokee Nation Museum.
The Cherokee demonstrate many ancient rites, and there are archery and blowgun competitions as well as games of Indian stickball.
There are a number of traditional Indian foods that are now part of our cuisine.
Succotash is a tasty dish and will make any holiday meal more special. Succotash and misickquatash are Wampanoag words meaning corn and beans together. The Cherokee now add green beans, fresh tomatoes, onions and corn kernels to their succotash. These recipes comes from Dale Carson’s book, “New Native American Cooking” (Random House; $18)
3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1½ cups fresh lima beans, small or large
1½ cups fresh corn kernels, from two large ears
½ cup water
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream, optional
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the beans, corn, water and pepper. Cook, covered for 10 to 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. If you prefer creamy succotash, stir in the cream and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring constantly. Serve hot. Serves 4.
Acorn squash stuffed with cranberries
Cranberries are native to America and at the first Thanksgiving feast the Native Americans introduced the settlers to this tangy, delicious berry, which they called sassamanesh.
4 small acorn squash
1½ cups whole fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup homemade or store-bought applesauce
½ teaspoon rated orange peel
½ cup maple sugar or brown sugar
3 teaspoons hazelnut oil*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut each squash in half, see and trim the bottom ends so the haves will stand upright in a baking dish. Bake squash in the center of the oven skim side up for 35 minutes. Remove squash from oven and set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine cranberries, applesauce, orange peel, sugar and oil. Spoon the mixture into the squash cavities.
Return squash halves to the oven and bake for 25 to 35 minutes more. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Serves 4.
*Any other good vegetable oil may be used.
Q: A friend is celebrating his 90th birthday and a group of us are giving him a “Depression Party.” I remember a cake my mother used to fix called Depression Cake. I’d love to bake this for him but have no recipe. Hope you can help.
— Clarice Foreman, Estero
Sure can. Here it is:
Depression days cake
1½ cups self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 heaping tablespoons cocoa
1 tablespoon vinegar
1⁄3 cup melted shortening
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup water
Mix together the dry ingredients, poke three holes in the mixture and put vinegar in one, shortening in the second and vanilla in the third.
Pour the water over all the ingredients, stir well and bake until brown, in a preheated 350 degree oven, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Doris Reynolds is the author of “Let’s Talk Food” and “When Peacocks ere Roasted and Mullet Was Fried”. They are available in the lobby of the Naples Daily News. Also available is a 4-part DVD, “A Walk Down Memory Lane with Doris Reynolds.” E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.