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.