A STFF Thanksgiving…

Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones, like Jeff, a recent visitor to this blog, who, in the company of another angling friend, celebrates the start of Thanksgiving Day on Fall Creek every year.  Most of us with families, and especially those who have angling-averse families, must resign ourselves to the traditional family get-together; watching football, drinking, and eventually sitting down at table adorned with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry relish, gravy, more drink, pumpkin pie, and more drink.  It’s not all bad, mind you.  It’s just that the holiday is all about giving thanks, and what better way to give thanks than to catch and release a few.  Symbolism is great…

Thanksgiving at STFF headquarters. Note the happy faces, the gala atmosphere...

No matter, my destiny this year, as in all years past, is chewing on a drumstick while visions dance in my head of jigging for stripers and blues on the DorisMae’s Thanksgiving trip off Barnegat Light.

Now mama always said, if you’re handed lemons, make lemonade, and so I decided to assign a little research regarding this historic event to the ever-scholarly STFF staff in hopes that their findings might support a change in the family tradition – a change that might even extend to a cultural renaissance of this feasting holiday.  What follows is sure to enlighten thee…

First off, a little background for those non-history types.  The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620 – towards the end of the striper run, oh by the way.  Apparently the Pilgrims were not too skilled with jig or fly, because their first winter was terrible.  They lost 46 of the original 102 who sailed on the Mayflower.  The next year, however, smiled on the survivors, as the harvest of 1621 was bountiful.  The colonists, along with 91 Wampanoag Indians (credited with saving them from complete disaster), decided to celebrate their good fortune with a feast.

Some broiled bluefish, Squanto?

And what did that feast include?  Well, our research shows many variations in the menu, but by most accounts, one controversial item that may have been missing was, of all things, turkey.  Turkey were present in the wild at the time of the first Thanksgiving, but the word “turkey” was used by the Pilgrims to mean any sort of wild fowl.   Good ole’ gun-toting Governor William Bradford apparently sent four men “fowling”, so more than likely, any “turkey” in the center of the table were wild sea ducks or geese.  Also missing from the feast was the potato, considered poisonous by many Europeans at the time, and dairy products, since there were no domestic cattle available.

From other accounts and records of daily life in Plymouth, we know that rabbit, chicken, squashes, beans, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, maple syrup and honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, and possibly goat cheese were available, although not necessarily all used in the same meal. The corn was most likely in the form of meal rather than on the cob, and pumpkin would have been served in the form of a pumpkin pudding or stew, and not in a crust.

Most noticeably “on the list” were some items few Americans would ever consider to be Thanksgiving table fare.  Governor Bradford lists bass, cod, and “other fish of which they took good store”, these fish being herring, bluefish, and lots of eels. Clams, lobsters (without the drawn butter), mussels, and oysters were undoubtedly part of dinner, too.

All they need is a little cocktail sauce...

So seafood, yes, seafood, made up a good part of the original Thanksgiving meal.  And how might that seafood come to our modern-day Thanksgiving table?  You guessed it; flyfishers and hardware fishers alike could go out and catch, and maybe this one time not release, their favorite piscatorial delight for part of the feast.  Imagine the pomp and circumstance as the weary fishermen return in the early afternoon and spread their bounty across the table for all to marvel over.  This addition to Thanksgiving would strengthen the tradition, put smiles on the multitudes, and kill TV ratings around all the damn football games that play that day.

I therefore propose that the readership spread the word.  This isn’t your grandfather’s Thanksgiving anymore – go forth and fish up some fare, and put a little Thanksgiving in Thanksgiving…

To all, a safe, belly-expanding, and joyous holiday…

Tight lines…


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4 Responses to “A STFF Thanksgiving…”

  1. wow great blog!

  2. stflyfisher Says:

    Jayne – Thanks for stopping by and for the nice comment!

  3. Uncle Robert- Good Blog! Tell Everyone there happy thanksgiving!
    -Andrew Sauer

  4. stflyfisher Says:

    Thanks Andrew – hopefully I’ll see you this weekend…

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