— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
This week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with many of the foods that have been the holiday’s custom since the very first celebration. And, as hard as it is to believe, chocolate was unknown to the early settlers and did not have a place at their first celebration—something we have changed in later years. Regardless, Thanksgiving is the authentically American holiday which is celebrated on the final Thursday in November. But did you know it was not always so?
It wasn’t until December 26, 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved this date to give the country an economic boost, making Thanksgiving a national holiday and setting it to be the fourth (but not final) Thursday in November. But long before the official proclamation, it was an annual tradition in the United States since 1863. Thanksgiving was historically a religious observation to give thanks to God.
The event that Americans commonly call the first Thanksgiving was celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive their first brutal winter in New England. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. The first Thanksgiving feast consisted of fowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, squash, beetroot and turkey.
Our modern day Thanksgiving holiday traces its origins from the original 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the Plymouth settlers held a harvest feast after a successful growing season. This was continued in later years, first as an impromptu religious observance, and later as a civil tradition.
The Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans lived near the Pilgrims and taught them how to catch eel and grow corn. The Wampanoag leaders had allowed their own food reserves to be shared with the fledgling colony during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient to keep the population alive.
Wisely these first Americans set apart this day to celebrate at Plymouth immediately after their first harvest. At the time, this was not regarded as a Thanksgiving observance; harvest festivals existed in English and Wampanoag tradition alike. Several colonists gave personal accounts of the 1621 feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was quoted that, “the Pilgrims found the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their outgoings and incomings, for which let His holy name have the praise forever, to all posterity.”
Our forefathers began to gather their small harvests and prepare their houses against winter cold. In future years some of these adventurers were employed in civic affairs, others were fishing for cod, bass and other fish, which was dried and stored, of which every family had their share. As winter approached they began to store salted fowl, of which there was plenty. Beside the abundance of waterfowl there was great supply of wild turkeys. All of this lead to a grand meal for ever person as the harvest of Indian corn was brought in from the field and stored for the winter months.
Today we celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey, corn, squash or pumpkin, cranberries and nuts. Many the recipes we use today use the very same ingredients from earlier Thanksgiving celebrations. While chocolate was not a part of the first feast, we have adapted many recipes that have been enriched with the dark stuff.
One of my personal favorites is Chocolate Pecan Pie which is made with our Choclatique Dark, Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Chips. I like this chocolate the best not only because of its wonderful rich flavor but for the miniature size. There are over 4000 mini-chips to a pound which ensures that every single bite will have a fair share of chocolate.
I encourage you to give this recipe a try and experiment with other chocolate desserts. If you have one that you think is out-of-this-world, send it to me and I will post it so others may share. Finally as we all express thanks for this year’s bounty, let’s not forget to offer a special thanks and prayers for our military men and women who are protecting us from others who do not share our beliefs.