Thanksgiving is such a joy to me. It’s a lot of work, and we have no family here in Maine to celebrate with; still, our little family has developed some lovely Thanksgiving traditions that are fun and important to us.
Since I love food history so much, I like to use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to teach my son a little food history behind Thanksgiving. One of my favorite traditions is teaching my son about what was on the menu at the first Thanksgiving.
While turkey may not have been on the menu, some kind of wild bird was, so it seems like the turkey is certainly close enough to accurate, right? But it’s fun to teach about the other foods that were served. According to historians, berries, onions, beans, and carrots were likely on the menu. Also (and this is probably the greatest departure for most of us), they probably served a lot of seafood.
Since I’m kind of a fan to sticking to the turkey and not having to prepare some fish as well at Thanksgiving, I focus on the corn as Thanksgiving tradition and history.
According to historians, corn was likely served–just not in the way we think. It was likely ground up into meal and made into a porridge like substance, which was then sweetened with molasses. We call this (or something close to it) today “Indian Pudding” or “Hasty Pudding.”
And it’s yummy! It’s a delicious way to add some fun history to your Thanksgiving traditions.
Please find my favorite version of the recipe below complete with my own recipe for the homemade whipped cream to go on top. This recipe is simple enough to make with your kiddos and can lead to a great conversation about Thanksgiving and history.
Indian Pudding (adapted from foodandwine.com)
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, mix together the cornmeal, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
In a sauce pan, mix the milk, cream, molasses, and brown sugar. Bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat and stir it occasionally.
Add your dry mixture to your wet mixture and mix. Pour into an 8 X 8 baking dish and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and then cook about 20 minutes more. The pudding will look wobbly, but it will set up more as it cools. It should cool at least 20 minutes.
2 cups heavy cream
4 Tablespoons sugar
Whipped cream directions:
Pour your heavy cream and sugar into a mixing bowl and use a mixer to mix until your whipped cream is fluffy. If you don’t have a mixer, you can use a whisk, but you’ll have to whisk until your arm falls off and then some. I’ve done it this way before. It’s still good, and you do burn a lot of calories, which is very important to me at Thanksgiving.
Serve the Indian Pudding warm with the cool cream on top, and if you have a sweet tooth like me, add a double scoop of that cream!
I hope you enjoy adding a little history to your Thanksgiving tradition.