Lexington Park, MD – It’s a no-brainer. Turkey is the main course for Thanksgiving supper. The debate was apparently settled centuries ago. So why aren’t we grilling steaks, boiling pasta, steaming crabs or broiling some huge American fish? You have to go back to the original Thanksgiving repast to figure that one out.

Historic accounts tell us the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in October of 1621 by the Pilgrims and their indigenous neighbors after their first harvest in the “new world.” The Plymouth Colony feast lasted three days and the native Wampanoag people outnumbered the Pilgrims by a significant margin. Historians say “fowl” was part of the repast. The online publication “Scholastic” states that the fowl were probably ducks that were roasted over a fire. Other accounts report the Wampanoag contributed venison to the feast.

It was during Abe Lincoln’s first term—in the middle of the Civil War—that Thanksgiving became a national holiday and celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. The theories about turkey becoming the main course originate from the bird’s size and not the precedent the Pilgrims and Wampanoag set. As Thanksgiving celebrations became large gatherings of family and friends, having one big bird to cook rather than several smaller ones seemed more practical. In modern day America, 24-26 pounds is usually the largest size turkey available for purchase. Even back in colonial times, the non-migratory turkey was available all year ‘round.

The original feast may have lasted three days due to lack of refrigeration—when it comes to food, wastefulness is no virtue and the Pilgrims personified virtue. With refrigeration, Thanksgiving yields an enormous volume of leftovers and has also yielded some clever culinary ideas. The web site “Dinner at the Zoo,” which features the prose of a writer who simply refers to herself as “Sara,” lists 40 turkey leftover suggestions. Here they are! Leftover turkey cranberry melts, turkey pot pie, Thanksgiving turkey hot dish, chipotle bbq turkey sliders, turkey corn chowder, turkey tetrazzini, Thanksgiving leftovers panini, turkey avocado flatbread, turkey and cranberry salad, Thanksgiving turkey gumbo, green Chile turkey enchiladas, turkey tamale pie, cranberry turkey baked sliders, turkey nachos, turkey bacon brie grilled cheese, one pot turkey and rice, Aunt Bee’s leftover turkey casserole, Thanksgiving pizza, turkey barley soup, creamy turkey wild rice soup, turkey pot pie soup, turkey chowder, turkey and stuffing casserole, Thanksgiving leftovers Croque Madam, turkey cranberry pizza, turkey cranberry and brie egg rolls, turkey Thai curry, The Ultimate Leftover Turkey Club, turkey and black bean enchiladas, turkey cranberry quesadillas, turkey shepherd’s pie, turkey bacon ranch pizza, turkey cranberry & brie crescent braid, turkey chili, turkey in creamy mushroom sauce, leftover turkey taco salad, turkey and dumplings, Turkey Monte Cristo, Turkey noodle casserole and turkey noodle soup. Visit Dinner at the Zoo for Sara’s individual recipes.

Like the Pilgrims did in the early 1600s, we hope you have reaped a harvest of some kind in the past year. Give thanks for it by celebrating with your family friends and community. Happy Thanksgiving!

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com