Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | November 18, 2010

What do you mean Thanksgiving is next week?!?!

I only have ONE week to get my house ready for Thanksgiving???  No!  Where did fall go?  Really?

I just hate that I lost track of days.  Well, to be fair, I’ve been distracted.  There’s been volunteering with the high school play (doing costumes again), job search  and a couple of interviews, and the usual household activities.

But it struck me that Thanksgiving is 7 days away.  This means that I better get into gear.

I had thought about it actually.  A few weeks ago, I had pulled a bunch of cookbooks off the shelf.  Every Thanksgiving I try to put a couple of things on the menu in honor of the First Peoples who shared their harvest feast with some immigrants from a boat that came from across the sea.  (Those silly immigrants had been starving because they hadn’t recognized the crops that were here, but they learned.)

I have thumbed through the pages of

  • Foods of the Americas, by Fernando and Marlene Divina and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
  • Native American Cooking- Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, by Lois Ellen Frank
  • Native Harvests, by E. Barrie Kavasch
  • Enduring Harvests, by E. Barrie Kavasch, and
  • Idonapshe – Let’s Eat, Traditional Zuni Foods, by Rita Edaakie

I always end up making a list of dozens of dishes that I want to eat from these recipe books.  I always get a grip on reality and cull the list down to a few dishes that I can incorporate into the “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner.  A few years ago, my friend Rosann and I totally blissed out on a modified oyster stuffing based on the one from page 95  of Native Harvest.

Daughter and her friends enjoyed the Tesuque pumpkin cookies (on page 66  of Native American Cooking) earlier this week when I made a batch for the kids working on the school play.  Those cookies are some of Daughter’s favorites…I made them when she was a toddler and I couldn’t get her to eat much except pasta, rice, grapes, carrots and Chinese homecooking.  She didn’t need to know that they were mostly pumpkin held together with a minimum of cookie batter.  (I increased the amount of pumpkin, decreased the amount of shortening and sugar called for in the recipe.) She only cared that whenever she asked for another cookie, I’d hand her two or three.  (I might have to make some more for Thanksgiving…hmmm.)

Anyway, this year we’re having a small group for Thanksgiving dinner so things should be simpler and more relaxed.  There should be turkey, wild rice with pine nuts, Brussel sprouts, cranberry and pecan sauce, roasted pumpkin, and my dad’s smoked salmon (that we carefully hoarded from last year).

Guess what?  Those dishes, except for the Brussel sprouts, are all featuring Native American foods.    Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.   But if I made you think a little about what the Native Peoples contributed to the world’s great culinary treasury, then I’m happy.  If you feel inspired to investigate some great recipes that would fit in your Thanksgiving table, please check out the books I listed.  There are some real gems.  (I’m still craving the sweet corn tamales, Hawaiian poke, and hazelnut soup I read about!)

I gotta go get my turkey now so that it can start defrosting.

Aunt Magaidh

Modified Tesuque Pumpkin Cookies

(based on the one in Native American Cooking, Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations)

  • 2 cups brown sugar (I usually short it to about 1 to 1.5 cups)
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 cups cooked pumpkin (canned is fine)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups flour, unbleached
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt, we tend to short it a bit
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg (we’ve also used mace)
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 to 2 cups raisins, adjust to your preference – sometimes we skip this
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 35o degrees F. Grease cookie sheets (I use about 4 of them).  In a large bowl, cream the sugar and shortening.  Then add the pumpkin, eggs and vanilla.  It should be smooth.  In another bowl, combine the flour baking soda, salt, spices.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, small amounts at a time.  Mix it completely.  Stir in raisins and nuts if you are using them.  Drop tablespoons of the dough on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake for about 12 minutes until they are dry and a little springy.  The cookies will be cakey and moist.  Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

P.S. –

One of my favorite picture books is Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message, by Jake Swamp.  It is a version of a thanksgiving address that comes from the Native people of the eastern region of the US and Canada.   Consider reading it to kids in your life.


  1. You are an amazing woman. You always make me re-think my thoughts. Thank you.

    • Just trying to get people to recognize how “American traditions” include some pre-European contact traditions, like harvest festivals and forms of government (yes, the founding fathers learned a thing or two from Native people of the eastern region). Pumpkin, corn, turkey and other game, chocolate, pecans, cranberries, hazelnuts, crabapples, squash, potatoes, sunchokes/Jerusalem artichokes, tomatoes, beans, peppers/chiles, plums, pinenuts, black walnuts, sunflowers, oysters, salmon, trout and many other seafoods, blueberries, persimmons… and the list goes on…are foods native to the Americas and enjoyed by Native peoples. Just a reminder to people who forget the Native roots of this country we love. (Okay, end of lecture and jumping off soap box… lol)

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