Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners by Lucille Recht Penner is a book we’ve had in our Thanksgiving box for a couple of years. This year, for the first time ever, our history studies actually coincided with Thanksgiving–we actually read the chapters in our history book about the Pilgrims and Plymouth last week! Thus, I decided this year was the year to share this book together as a read-aloud. At just over 100 pages and ten chapters, this made the ideal book for our post-lunchtime read-aloud period, and even more so since this book details the Pilgrims’ eating habits, mealtime etiquette (or lack thereof, at least according to our standards), and way of life. Through this book we learned how they benefited from the help of the Indians, as well as how their lives changed over time after trade was established that enabled them to get a greater variety of spices, etc. We also learned about their houses and just how they lived from day to day. A lot of their time, of course, was devoted to procuring and preparing food! One thing I love about the book is that Penner intersperses “wit and wisdom” throughout; an appropriate little poem prefaces each chapter, for example. The crown jewel of the whole book, though, is the collection of recipes at the end. These recipes are purportedly authentic, but from different times during the Pilgrims’ first years in America. This year we were inspired to prepare our own authentic Thanksgiving feast. We made all but two of the recipes included in the book:
- fresh corn soup
- red pickled eggs
- hot Indian pudding
- succotash stew (we started this one but ran out of time)
- spicy cucumber catsup
- bannock cakes
- whole baked pumpkin stuffed with apples
- bearberry jelly
- hot nuts (we opted not to do this one since nuts are expensive and something we eat anyway)
Here are a few pictures of the more interesting recipes: bearberry (cranberry) jelly, red pickled eggs, and the apple-stuffed pumpkin.
We also made Goody O’Grumpity’s spice cake from Carol Ryrie Brink’s Goody O’Grumpity.
We invited all the grandparents over to share the meal with us, and as I suspected, after it was all over we were very thankful for our material blessings in the year 2014. 😉 Most of the kids liked the bannock cakes covered in maple syrup, which is understandable since they’re really just fried cornbread (or hoecakes, as my granny would’ve called them) and thus something we’re accustomed to eating.
The girls had a good time picking out poems and quotations from the book to type up for the placecards.
Louise also shared some of the rules of etiquette and decorated the table with stern warnings about which utensils were acceptable at our authentic feast.
What I took away from this, and what I hope my girls will remember, is what Penner says at the end of the book:
With courage and hard work, the Pilgrims earned every change in their daily menu. No matter how hard their lives were, they never gave up. They ate their dry, buggy meals on the Mayflower. They snatched handfuls of berries and nuts to keep themselves going during the first hard years. And at last they were successful. (106)
This was a time-consuming project but one that I think my kids will always remember. My girls, at ages ten and nine, were at the perfect ages to do this and sort of make it their own. The DLM helped a lot, too; he would have it no other way. 😉 I was exhausted when it was all over, but Nana and Mamaw handled most of the cleanup, and I’m really glad we did it.
Here are a few other books we’ve read over the years that would make really good companions to Eating the Plates:
- Goody O’Grumpity by Carol Ryrie Brink
- William’s House by Ginger Howard
- Journey Cake, Ho! by Ruth Sawyer
- Many of the books on our Thanksgiving list