November 22, 2012
FROM THE THANKSGIVING ARCHIVES: HALE AND HEARTY:The Truth About Squire Romolee (LAUREL THATCHER ULRICH, November 28, 2002, NY Times)
As I unbag a free-range turkey bought at my local grocery store, I think of the description of a Thanksgiving dinner in a now-forgotten
novel. "Northwood, A Tale of New England," published in Boston in 1827, launched Sarah Josepha Hale's literary career. More than three decades later, as the influential editor of Godey's Lady's Book, she helped persuade Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday.
The Thanksgiving dinner in "Northwood" takes place in the home of a prosperous New Hampshire farmer whom Hale calls Squire Romolee. On two tables pushed together in the parlor a roasted turkey keeps company with a succulent goose, a pair of ducklings, a sirloin of beef, a leg of pork, a joint of mutton and an immense chicken pie.
Surrounding this culinary menagerie is a colorful array of vegetables, pickles and preserves. A slice of wheat bread sits on the glass tumbler at the head of each plate. A separate table displays cake, plum pudding, custards, pies of every description, sweetmeats, currant wine, cider and ginger beer.
When a visiting Englishman asks Squire Romolee how he can claim the virtue of temperance in the face of such a feast, the happy farmer exclaims, "Well, well, I may at least recommend industry, for all this variety you have seen before you on the table, excepting the spices and salt, has been furnished from my own farm and procured by our own labor and care."
Hale's Yankee farmer, more than Pilgrims in stiff white collars, epitomizes the American Thanksgiving. It is our most authentic national holiday. Each November, Americans push tables together, gathering friends and families around them to acknowledge, among other gifts, the essential American blessings--material abundance and the ability to enjoy the product of "our own labor and care." We still watch fireworks on the Fourth of July, but the oratory and civic parades that once marked the nation's birthday have largely faded. The Thanksgiving feast endures.
Ms Hale also wrote a lovely hymn, suitable to the day:
OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN (1831)(originally posted: November 28, 2002) Posted by oj at November 22, 2012 12:00 AM
Our Father in heaven, we hallow Thy Name;
May Thy kingdom holy on earth be the same;
O give to us daily our portion of bread;
It is from Thy bounty that all must be fed.
Forgive our transgressions, and teach us to know
That humble compassion which pardons each foe;
Keep us from temptation, from evil and sin,
And Thine be the glory, forever! Amen!