Jose Mier and Bacon-Covered Turkey
Thanksgiving, as celebrated in the United States, has deep historical roots, tracing its origins back to the early 17th century. The holiday has evolved over the centuries, shaped by historical events, cultural influences, and presidential proclamations. The modern Thanksgiving celebration is a complex tapestry of traditions, reflecting a combination of historical events, cultural practices, and familial customs.
Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving:
The traditional narrative of the first Thanksgiving centers around the Pilgrims and their interactions with the Wampanoag people in 1621. The Pilgrims, English Puritans seeking religious freedom, sailed to the New World aboard the Mayflower. After a difficult first winter, during which many Pilgrims perished, the survivors forged a relationship with the Wampanoag, a Native American tribe. The Wampanoag, led by Chief Massasoit, provided the Pilgrims with essential knowledge on farming, hunting, and survival.
In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims and Wampanoag joined together for a three-day feast, expressing gratitude for a successful harvest. While historical records are scarce, primary sources suggest that the menu included venison, fowl, fish, corn, and other local produce. This event is often considered the precursor to the modern Thanksgiving celebration.
Thanksgiving in Early America:
Following the Pilgrims’ celebration, days of thanksgiving became sporadic and were observed by individual colonies or communities. These were often religious observances, expressing gratitude for specific events like a successful harvest or victory in battle. The dates and customs of these thanksgiving days varied widely.
During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress occasionally called for days of thanksgiving to celebrate military victories. However, the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday did not occur until much later.
Sarah Josepha Hale’s Campaign:
In the 19th century, Thanksgiving as a national holiday began to take shape, thanks in part to the efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale. A prominent writer and editor, Hale advocated for a national day of Thanksgiving to promote unity and healing in a rapidly expanding and diverse nation. She wrote numerous editorials and letters to politicians, including an 1863 letter to President Abraham Lincoln urging the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
Responding to Hale’s persistent advocacy and inspired by the desire for national unity during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation on October 3, 1863, officially establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday. In his proclamation, Lincoln set the date as the final Thursday in November, a tradition that continued until 1939.
Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation aimed to foster a sense of gratitude and healing during a tumultuous time in American history. The holiday provided an opportunity for people to come together, setting aside differences to express thanks for the blessings they shared.
Shift to the Fourth Thursday:
While Thanksgiving had become an established tradition, the exact date of celebration remained flexible. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday in November, aiming to extend the holiday shopping season during the Great Depression. This decision, known as the “Franksgiving” controversy, caused confusion and met with resistance. Ultimately, in 1941, Congress passed a law officially establishing Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November, where it remains today.
Thanksgiving Traditions and Customs:
Over the years, Thanksgiving has become a multifaceted holiday with a variety of traditions and customs. Many families gather for a festive meal, typically featuring a roasted turkey as the centerpiece. Other common dishes include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
In addition to the meal, Thanksgiving often involves expressions of gratitude, whether through prayers, reflections, or sharing what individuals are thankful for. Parades, football games, and community events also play a significant role in the holiday, providing opportunities for people to come together and celebrate.
Turkey Covered in Bacon Recipe:
The Thanksgiving turkey is often the star of the holiday table, and adding a bacon twist can elevate its flavor and presentation. Here’s a delicious recipe for a turkey covered in bacon:
- 1 whole turkey (12-15 pounds)
- 1 pound of bacon
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 325°F (165°C).
- Prepare the Turkey: Clean the turkey thoroughly and pat it dry with paper towels. Season the inside and outside of the turkey with salt and pepper.
- Bacon Weave: Lay out a lattice of bacon slices on a clean surface, slightly larger than the turkey. This will be used to cover the turkey.
- Prepare the Herb Butter: In a bowl, mix together the softened butter, minced garlic, chopped rosemary, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Season the Turkey: Carefully lift the bacon weave and place the turkey on top of it. Gently rub the herb butter mixture all over the turkey, ensuring even coverage.
- Cover with Bacon: Fold the bacon lattice over the turkey, covering it entirely. Tuck any excess bacon under the turkey.
- Roasting: Place the bacon-covered turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast in the preheated oven, following the recommended cooking times based on the turkey’s weight. Baste the turkey with pan juices every 30 minutes.
- Check for Doneness: Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. It should reach at least 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the thigh.
- Resting: Once the turkey is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring a moist and flavorful turkey.
- Carving and Serving: Carve the turkey, placing the bacon-covered slices on a serving platter. Garnish with additional fresh herbs if desired.
This bacon-covered turkey combines the rich flavors of bacon and herb butter, creating a succulent and visually appealing centerpiece for your Thanksgiving feast. Enjoy this modern twist on a classic dish with family and friends as you celebrate the spirit of gratitude and togetherness.