When you think about it, what could be more Americana, as far as food is concerned, than Thanksgiving? After all, the pilgrims and the Native Americans had the first celebration of harvest together with family and friends. And it seems that tradition has lasted, even though today we may shop in a supermarket for our “harvest” foods.   

It was Abraham Lincoln who proclaimed a day of “thanksgiving and praise” in 1863. Thanksgiving is observed as a federal holiday today.

I have a cookbook that is a reproduction of the original “White House Cookbook” copyrighted in 1887 by P.L. Gillette. The reproduction was published by Ottenheimer Publishers, Inc. As I looked through it for Thanksgiving dinner recipes, I came across instructions for Roast Turkey. Now, for some of you this will surely bring a smile and a big “thank you” that you live in this modern era of fresh or frozen turkeys from the supermarket! 

I think the instructions bear reading so that you can appreciate even more the times in which we live. Enjoy!

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Happy Thanksgiving Day! Autumn feast. Family sitting at the table and celebrating holiday. Grandparents, parents and children. Traditional dinner.

Roast Turkey

“Select a young turkey; remove all the feathers carefully, singe it over a burning newspaper on the top of the stove; then “draw” it nicely, being very careful not to break any of the internal organs; remove the crop carefully; cut off the head, and tie the neck close to the body by drawing the skin over it. Now rinse the inside of the turkey out with several glasses of water, and in the next to the last, mix a teaspoon of baking soda; oftentimes the inside of a fowl is very sour, especially if it is not freshly killed. Soda, being cleansing, acts as a corrective, and destroys that unpleasant taste which we frequently experience in the dressing when fowls have been killed for some time. Now, after washing, wipe the turkey dry, inside and out, with a clean cloth, rub the inside with some salt, then stuff the breast and body with dressing. Then sew up the turkey with a strong thread, tie the legs and wings to the body, rub it over with a little soft butter, sprinkle over some salt and pepper, dredge with a little flour; place it in a dripping pan, pour in a cup of boiling water, and set it in the oven. 

Baste the turkey often, turning it around occasionally so that every part will uniformly bake. When pierced with a fork and the liquid runs out clear, the bird is done. If any part is likely to scorch, pin over it a piece of buttered white paper. A 15-pound turkey requires between three and four hours to bake. Serve with cranberry sauce.”

The following Pumpkin Pie recipe did not use “Libby’s” in a can! Read on:

Baked Pumpkin or Squash for Pies

Cut up into several pieces, do not pare it; place them on baking tins and set them in the oven; bake slowly until soft, then take them out, scrape all the pumpkin from the shell, rub it through a colander. It will be fine and light and free from lumps.

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Homemade pumpkin pie on wooden rustic background selective focus

Pumpkin Pie 

For three pies: One quart of milk, three cupfuls of boiled and strained pumpkin, one and one-half cupfuls of sugar, one-half cupful of molasses, the yolks and whites of four eggs beaten separately, a little salt, one tablespoonful each of ginger and cinnamon. Beat all together and bake with an under the crust.

Now, in case you need a menu for your Thanksgiving meal, here’s what the White House chef offered the President, his family and his guests:

Oysters on the Half Shell

Cream of Chicken Soup

Fried Smelts with Sauce Tartare

Roast Turkey with Cranberry Sauce

Mashed Potatoes

Baked Squash

Boiled Onions

Parsnip Fritters


Chicken Salad

Venison Pastry

Pumpkin Pie 

Mince Pie

 Charlotte Russe

Almond ice Cream

Lemon Jelly

Hickory Nut Cake




Can you imagine preparing all of that food?! I hope you will enjoy your own Thanksgiving meal with a shorter menu.

Have a lovely day with your family and friends. Cheers!