History or Tradition?

It’s Thanksgiving, so what’s for dinner?lobsterturkey

Americans love our Thanksgiving with passion. But with just as much enthusiasm do we love to discuss and debate what to eat for the meal that the holiday is centered around. Historical accuracy is at play here, so as a writer of historical fiction, this debate is near and dear to my heart.

Historically, the pilgrims had a huge smorgasbord of goodies. They ate turkey, goose, venison, lobster, corn, and pumpkin, among other things. They didn’t have our beloved sweet potatoes, nor, apparently, any potatoes at all. And pie would have been off the menu because of a lack of sugar. Poor things!

So why do you think turkey has become center of our Thanksgiving meal and not, say, venison or lobster? It’s a question I feel I’ve got to ask because last year my family had a traditional New England Thanksgiving with friends in Boston. They served lobster, naturally.

It was a happy gathering, but this year my children begged me for the traditional meal that they’re used to—turkey, stuffing, sweet potato pudding with marshmallows and green bean casserole. I’m very happy to oblige, especially since I’ll be able to put said children to work in the creation of this lovely meal (they’re adults, I think it’s time they helped with the cooking). I’ve already made the apple pie (it’s been in the freezer for a month, ready to be popped into the oven at just the right time) and will happily oversee my daughter as she makes the pumpkin pie, while my son whips the cream to go on top.

But aside from emotional reasons, is there any reason we shouldn’t have venison or lobster?

No. Not really. They’re equally accurate, historically. But then, we should probably leave out the sweet potatoes and the pie.

Wait? No pie?!

Well, you see, it’s a balance. Just as in my novels, while I do try to be as historically accurate as possible, I don’t carry that to extremes.  I have my characters bathe every day and smell nice. They brush their teeth and have pearly whites. Women behave boldly and stand up for themselves and men respect them for that. Is this historically accurate? Nope. Not at all.

But tradition and modern sensibilities determine that my characters behave this way. Just as our modern sensibilities demand pie for dessert on Thanksgiving.

So, no matter what you eat, I hope that you and yours have a wonderful, delicious Thanksgiving, and we’ll all enjoy our historical inaccuracies and traditions.