For the typical American just the words “Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner” have the power to evoke a whole range of images and catchwords. Whose tradition? What dinner? And for that matter, why are we giving thanks in this manner, anyway? Americans love Thanksgiving and as we all know, celebrate it with family reunions, gatherings of friends and sumptuous feasts. We also surround it with an enormous collection of myths and questionable history. As we enthusiastically observe our “great North American Holiday” note that we were hardly the first civilization to set aside days of thanks. Greeks, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Hebrews and many other ancient cultures all celebrated in the autumn to give thanks for an abundant harvest.
The event that we generally think of as the first Thanksgiving was in 1621. It was a three day English Harvest Festival celebrated by some 90-odd Wampanoag Native Americans and about 60 of the surviving Pilgrims. We hold dearly to an enduring image of the somberly dressed Pilgrims and their native guests enjoying a “traditional” Thanksgiving menu. However the iconic Turkey might not have adorned the groaning board, as the term was generically used to indicate wild fowl which very well may have been duck or goose. No pumpkin pies or dinner rolls either, as the colonist had long before exhausted their supplies of flour. Boiled pumpkin and fried cornmeal bread were far more likely and it is recorded that the feasters enjoyed the fresh venison from 5 deer contributed by Chief Massasoit and his countrymen. Their menu was further enhanced by lobster, clams and other freshwater fish. Berries, dried fruit and wild greens were probably enjoyed, as well.
Even the day upon which we celebrate this event has gone through considerable evolution. As genuinely successful as this “first” Thanksgiving seems to have been, it was not repeated the next year and was never observed by the Pilgrims on any regular day. The establishment of the national holiday on a regular annual basis was the result of a 1863 proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln which established our present holiday on the last Thursday of November. We have continued with this tradition ever since (mythic imagery and all) except for a brief and unpopular switch to the third Thursday in November during FDR’s administration.
People tend to be very opinionated and passionate about their culinary preferences, although this has more to do with regional tastes and individual family prejudices than with historical facts. As a youngster in Texas of the 1950s, I fondly remember my father’s absolute contempt for all white bread “Yankee Dressing”. My grandmother’s sage and cornbread dressing was and is the holy writ. However, in both my home and career, I have discovered that it is not necessarily heresy to recognize the melting pot nature of our American holiday. In this spirit we offer you our recipe for Sweet Potato Mousse.
SWEET POTATO MOUSSE
A unique Southern dessert made with Lowcountry Produce’s Sweet Potato Butter; a favorite at Avanti Savoia’s annual Open House
Serves 8 to 10
Available at Avanti Savoia*
· 12 ounces Whipped Cream Cheese
· ¼ cup Doug’s Other Honey*
· One 16 ounce jar Lowcountry Produce Sweet Potato Butter*
· 2 teaspoons Silver Cloud Vanilla Bean Paste*
· ½ teaspoon Avanti Savoia Allspice*
· 2 teaspoons Avanti Savoia Cinnamon*
· !/2 teaspoon Nutmeg*
· ½ pint heavy cream
· 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1. Bring cream cheese to room temp and whip in an electric mixer until smooth.
2. Add honey and mix well.
3. Add Sweet Potato Butter and blend very well, scraping down sides as necessary. Next, blend in the vanilla and spices.
4. In a separate mixing bowl, whip cream and powdered sugar until fluffy. Fold this into the mousse mixture.
5. Place mousse into attractive serving bowl or individual serving bowls. The mousse can also be served in bite size pastry cups. Refrigerate over night or for a least several hours.
6. Serve with or without a dollop of whipped cream.