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Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day

Gobble gobble

The holidays are upon us and we are all extremely thankful for our blessings.

I was searching for something meaningful to blog about for Thanksgiving, when I ran across this article from Arkansas Heritage about the first Thanksgiving in Arkansas. One interesting feature of the article is about the food that was served, a little different than we serve today.

What did Arkansawyers eat on the first Turkey Day?

Well, it wasn’t turkey, believe it or not! Turkey wasn’t the Thanksgiving icon in 1847 that it is today. Judging from the records of incoming cargo and food advertisements at the time, Little Rock Thanksgiving-ers that first year ate bacon, fresh beef, mutton, fresh pork, veal and geese. Butter, eggs, cheese and honey were abundant, and potatoes, onions, beets, apples and turnips were sold by the bushel. Among other delights available at the time were raisins, loaf sugar, water crackers and pickled herring. Beverages included hop beer, ratafia (a term used for two types of sweet alcoholic beverage, either a fortified wine or a fruit-based beverage) and wines made from wild berries. For dessert? “Philpies, bops, zepharinas, jumbles, sally lun, journey cake, marvels, cymbals, flummeries, syllabubs, trifles and floating islands.” We did a little research to help define these frilly-sounding desserts. Philpies (or philpy) is a quick bread made from rice. A flummery is a starch-based soft dessert pudding popular in Britain and Ireland from the 17th to 19th centuries. Syllabubs were made from frothed cream and wine. A floating island is a dessert of French origin, consisting of meringue floating on vanilla custard. Journey cakes are johnnycakes, a cornmeal flatbread that was an early American staple food with its origins in Native American cooking. We found one reference to a Mississippi Marvel Cake, a pudding-filled pie, which may be similar to the “marvels” mentioned. Jumbles are cookie-like pastries. Sally Lunn cake and trifles are desserts many folks know. What about bops, zepharinas or cymbals? We don’t know!

From turkey to pumpkin pie, from all of us at SHR, have a great holiday and be sure to consume lots of cymbals. Happy Thanksgiving!

[Source: “When Arkansas Had Its First Thanksgiving Day—1847,”written by Diana Sherwood (reprinted from the “Arkansas Gazette” on November 21, 1937) published in the “Arkansas Historical Quarterly,” pages 250-256, Volume 4, Number 3, Autumn 1945. Pictured: PhilpyFlummery made with an 18th century wooden mold, Syllabubs and Floating islands. ]

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