Harvest festivals have been celebrated for millennia. Throughout Europe feasting and celebrating after a successful harvest are as ancient as the harvest season itself. Jewish harvest celebrations include the Feast of Tabernacles, a time of joy, praise and thanksgiving to God for His blessings of fruit, grapes, and grain. Native Americans have ceremonies that give thanks to Mother Earth for successful harvests with hope for the next growing season. To Americans, the harvest season heralds crisp mornings, pumpkin pie, and Pilgrims seeking passage to a land rich with possibilities.
Captain John Smith’s descriptions of America’s bounty inspired the Pilgrims, who were members of the English Separatist Church – a radical faction of Puritanism, to depart for the New World. While the Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower with visions of religious freedom, recruits of the Merchant Adventurers (indentured servants and pioneers) were not the least interested in religious freedom; the Promised Land they sought was filled with fortune and material gain.
On September 6, 1620 the motley crew sailed; on November 11 they arrived on New England’s shores at Cape Cod. Though the Pilgrims came to fish, they did not have nets, tackle, or know- how. Native Massachusetts tribesmen taught the Pilgrims to construct fishing lines and nets from vegetable fibers and to craft hooks from bones. They caught and ate cod, clams, and other ocean fish, harpooned river sturgeon, and scooped eels from the streams following Squanto’s instruction.
In 1621, after a year of bitter cold temperatures, near-starvation, and illness, the Puritan settlers celebrated a bountiful harvest for three days with 90 Native Americans while giving thanks to God. For this “First Thanksgiving” feast, the leader of the Wampanoag people, Massasoit, contributed five deer. Governor William Bradford wrote that there were fish, wild turkeys, ducks, and geese. Colonial leader Edward Winslow recorded that the meal also included “lobsters, clams, eel, and Indian pudding made from corn boiled in molasses.” To a friend in England, Winslow wrote, “And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” While this “First Thanksgiving” was a day of celebration, a truly Puritan “thanksgiving” would have been a day set aside for prayer, piety, and reverence to God for His Providence.
As we enter this harvest season, we remember Jesus’ words to His disciples: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Mt 9:37). Is our harvest plentiful because, like the recruits of the Merchant Adventurers, we focus on fortune? Or, has the Lord sent us as His laborers to sow seeds of morality and goodness that a bountiful harvest of souls may be won for the Kingdom of God?
Perfect Pumpkin Pie • prep time: 1 1/2 hours • Yield: 6-8 servings
The pumpkin pie we savor at Thanksgiving is a far cry from the colonial original. According to U.P. Hedrick in A History of Horticulture in America to 1860, pumpkin pie was traditionally made “by cutting a hole in the top of the pumpkin to permit the removal of the seeds and their surroundings, after which the cavity was stuffed with apples, spices, sugar, and milk, and the whole baked. Probably a pastry similar to the modern pumpkin pie was made by those who had flour for the crust.”
1 3⁄4 cups canned pumpkin
1 (9-inch) pie crust, unbaked 1 3⁄4 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon 1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄2 tsp ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp ground nutmeg
1⁄4 tsp ground cloves
Preheat oven to 425 ̊F. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except crust. Using electric mixer, beat at medium speed 2 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 ̊F. Bake 50 minutes or until knife inserted in pie center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on
wire rack. Enjoy with your favorite whipped topping or seasonal décor.
CHEF JOHN D. FOLSE is an entrepreneur with interests ranging from restaurant development to food manufacturing, catering to culinary education. A cradle-Catholic, he supports many Catholic organizations including the Sister Dulce Ministry at Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, LA.
MICHAELA YORK is vice president of communications for John Folse & Company.