The First Thanksgiving

November 23, 2011

Another Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I’m thankfully heading to the mountains for my feast. Before heading out, however, I had to find a little Florida related history on this Fall celebration, and what I found surprised me. Apparently this holiday’s roots lay much deeper than the Plymouth Rock celebration.

It’s Florida, not Massachusetts, that has the right to claim the very first Thanksgiving.

History books agree that a thanksgiving feast was held in Florida on Sept. 8, 1565, a good 56 years before the feast at Plymouth Rock.

After Spanish Adm. Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed his ship in St. Augustine, soldiers, sailors, civilian families and the Timucuan Indians gathered and gave thanks at a makeshift altar before holding a feast of thanksgiving.  What was on the menu?  The Spanish brought garbanzo beans, olive oil, bread, pork and wine while the Timucuan Indians brought oysters and giant clams.

To get the word out, at least two books have been written.  The first, in 1965, is The Cross in the Sand by Michael Gannon who argues that this St. Augustine feast should be recognized as the first Thanksgiving.

In 2007 Florida school teacher Robyn Gioia came out with a children’s version of the story, America’s REAL First Thanksgiving, geared towards 9-12 year olds. Her book includes a recipe for a Spanish dish most likely served at the first thanksgiving called Cocida (pronounced “coSEEDo”). Here is that recipe:

  • 16 to 20 ounces garbanzo beans (canned)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, quartered
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound salt pork (or bacon, ham or pancetta), diced
  • 2 large carrots, thickly sliced
  • 1 leek, cut into short lengths
  • 1/2 pound sausage (or fresh chorizo), sliced

Drain beans, rinse, and put in large kettle.

Add water, spices, and garlic.

In skillet, fry salt pork and onion until brown. Drain then add to kettle. Simmer for 45 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer an additional 45 minutes or more depending on desired thickness. Salt to taste.

Serves 4 to 6 people.

Bacon, ham or pancetta may be substituted for salt pork. Regular sausage works nicely, but chorizo has a distinct flavor.

Can you imagine replacing your turkey with this?  Although Codica is undoubtedly good, I really like my turkey.

Will any of this change how I celebrate Thanksgiving this year?  No. But it’s just the kind of Florida trivia that amuses me, and a piece of history that educates me.


Thankful for Food, Family and Fun

November 24, 2010

I look forward to Thanksgiving every year.  Since my mom and her twin sister’s birthday falls on or near Thanksgiving Day, our family has always come together for this holiday more than any other. This year I am fortunate to share my mom’s birthday and the holiday with many family and friends while in the mountains of western North Carolina. Although my aunt is no longer with us, her family will be.

Before heading north though, I wanted to look around Florida to see what interesting things will be happening this Thanksgiving. Here are a few events I found:

Daytona Beach:  The Daytona Turkey Run Car Show at the International Speedway will feature over 5,000 antique cars and trucks.  Also included will be a car corral and swap meet.

Lake Wales:  Enjoy the Thanksgiving Day carrillon recital at historic Bok Sanctuary (Bok Tower). The recitals are at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. Tour the gardens while there.

Delray Beach:  Head south to the Thanksgiving Weekend Art Festival with over 175 artists displaying their artwork.

Brooksville:  Attend the Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival  and get to know the music of The Grascals, Claire Lynch, and Carolina Road.

Ft. Myers: Have your Thanksgiving feast onboard the Seminole Gulf Railway. A family dinner run  departs at noon.  A second run, a Murder Mystery Dinner, departs at 5:30 p.m. 

Along with tree lightings and Black Friday shopping, a little college football rivalry is always part of the Thanksgiving weekend.  While in North Carolina, my brother and cousins will annoyingly be cheering for the Florida Gators, while I, alone, will be cheering for the Florida State Seminoles. The only thing is, if the Seminoles win, I’ll have to put up with the sore losers that Gator fans are notoriously known to be. Somehow though,I think I will manage.