- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 12, 2016

It is a new book which goes way beyond the standard cultural discussions of Pilgrims, turkey, holiday traffic and early morning bargain shoppers.

“Thanksgiving: The holiday at the heart of the American experience” by Melanie Kirkpatrick is handsomely packaged and offers uncommon resources for those seeking insight on why we observe the day. The Pilgrims, the author says, were “world class” when it came to expressing their gratitude to their Creator on a daily basis.

The book includes suggested readings to be offered at the Thanksgiving table. Those readings include the 100th Psalm from the Bible, plus an American soldier’s letter home, written in 1776. Thanksgiving, the holiday, did not escape some turmoil. The book also examines the role of U.S. presidents and civic-minded stalwarts who worked to ensure the day’s heritage and permanent spot on the calendar.

Ms. Kirkpatrick is the former deputy editorial page editor for the Wall Street Journal and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. She has drawn on vintage newspaper accounts, private correspondence, historical documents, and even very old cookbooks to craft her portrait of the day.

There are recipes, including the Pilgrim’s original version of pumpkin pie plus a recipe for oyster stuffing issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1954.
Of particular note: the historic culinary references include a menu for a “Civil War Dinner for Wounded Soldiers” as printed in the old Washington Evening Star newspaper in 1864.

On that Thanksgiving Day, 550 patients sat down together in an armory in the nation’s capital for a hearty feast that spanned 36 menu items. It was a meal to be reckoned with, including roast goose, boiled ham, roast veal, rockfish — plus “Irish potatoes” and “kale slaw.”

The soldiers also tucked into breads and appetizer tidbits of many descriptions, plus apple pie, ice cream, cranberry tarts, almonds, raisins and figs.

Ms. Kirkpatrick’s book was published last month by Encounter Books.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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