At the Williams Street Farmhouse we had a tradition of serving a Thanksgiving meal made entirely of ingredients we grew, foraged, or made ourselves. Of course exceptions would be made for things like olive oil and spices, but the bulk of the food was our own.
For our urban homestead, this meant that we did not have turkey. One year we had chickens a dog had harvested for us, one of them missing a leg and part of a breast. Another year we had a caribou roast. And one time it was wild-caught salmon. It was always delicious and we didn’t miss the turkey.
Appetizers might be smoked salmon spread, homemade goat cheese with herbs, or charcuterie my husband made from a local pig. Accompaniments most certainly included roasted root vegetables. Purple and white potatoes, bright orange carrots, and ruby red beets added to the festiveness of the table. I would forgo the green jello salad of my youth and instead have a green kale and barley gratin.
One year we even made cranberry sauce from our wild harvested low bush cranberries (and lots of our honey!) Another year we had crabapple sauce, a sweet, tart alternative. Home-made sourdough bread and a ferment like sauerkraut or dilly beans would round out the meal. Dessert was still fairly traditional with pumpkin pie and/or apple pie once our apple trees started producing.
We would invite our friends to share our abundance that we had worked so hard for over the previous year. It made me so proud and happy to nourish them with quality homegrown food. They appreciated all the time and love that went into the meal, making it so much more special than a butterball turkey. Together we celebrated the harvest in the original spirit of Thanksgiving.
This year we are on a sailboat in Guatemala and I truly miss our homegrown feast. We can go to one of the marinas and have turkey with stuffing and mashed potatoes but that is not Thanksgiving to me anymore. Without homegrown food and our friends to share it with I can’t quite stomach it. We will stay on the boat and make a special meal with the best local ingredients we can find. I will be thankful to be here, and to be able to spend so much quality time with my husband and beautiful children.
This year, how are you incorporating the abundance of your garden into your Thanksgiving meal? Use what you have available to prepare something unique and truly special instead of running to the store to buy what you feel like you need to serve. Create new traditions based on your location and what the sun, soil and rain give to you in abundance. And be sure to give thanks for that abundance and the friends to share it with!