Just don’t tell us they forgot the cranberry sauce


Happy Thanksgiving to all of our Gentle Readers celebrating today!

We received a link from Alert Janeite Lisa that amused us not a little, to an article about what the Pilgrims really ate at the first Thanksgiving.

Popcorn: In 1889, a novel by Jane Austen created the myth that popcorn was served at the first Thanksgiving. This legend was disproved by archaeologists at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts who experimented with antique corn breeds and could not get any of them to pop.

Those paying attention will note several problems with this paragraph, once they pick themselves off the floor where they no doubt fell laughing. But we think the author meant to reference the “other” Jane Austin–Jane G. Austin, that is, who wrote a book called Standish of Standish, a Story of the Pilgrims that contains the following bit:

The meal was a rude one looked upon with the dainty eyes and languid appetites of to-day, but to those sturdy and heroic men and women it was a veritable feast, and at its close Quadequina with an amiable smile nodded to one of his attendants, who produced and poured upon the table something like a bushel of popped corn,—a dainty hitherto unseen and unknown by most of the Pilgrims.

All tasted, and John Howland hastily gathering up a portion upon a wooden plate carried it to the Common house for the delectation of the women, that is to say, for Elizabeth Tilley, whose firm young teeth craunched it with much gusto.

As long as they had cranberry sauce, it’s all good. (Please don’t disabuse us of our notions. It’s a national freaking holiday.) And don’t do any stupid stampeding tomorrow.

(Elizabeth Tilley, eh? Sure that’s not “Fitzwilliam” Howland? “Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way.”)

6 thoughts on “Just don’t tell us they forgot the cranberry sauce

  1. I wonder whether I can get my JASNA group to read this new “Austen” novel, Standish of Standish
    A Story of the Pilgrims, instead of Northanger Abbey as we planned for 2010?

    Where have all the copy editors gone?


  2. A. Marie

    First, to answer JaneGS’s question: The copy editors (in the newspaper business, at least) are all being laid off. See my friend John McIntyre’s blog, You Don’t Say (http://johnemcintyre.blogspot.com/). As a full-time, on-staff copy editor for a book publisher, I feel like The Last of the Mohicans.

    Second, Jane G. Austin’s prose style sent me into almost as severe a fit of the giggles as Alert Janeite Lisa’s original tip did. The combination of John Howland’s hasty gathering and Elizabeth Tilley’s firm young teeth is sending my imagination to places where it doesn’t belong.


  3. Mags

    I wonder if a helpful copy editor who knew of the existence of Jane Austen, and that her surname should be spelled with an “e,” but was not familiar with the actual novels, made a change? Though one would hope a copy editor would also fact check to be sure it was Jane Austen or Austin or whatever who wrote the book about the first Pilgrims.


    • Sandra_in_the_US

      As an ex-patriate New England, I’m betting what they ate for breakfast was a corn-meal and milk mush. Don’t know what they had in the way of sweeteners as the molasses trade with the West Indies was yet some way off. Probably didn’t process maple syrup yet either. That’s what we sweetened it with when I was a kid. The name of this appetizing dish? Indian pudding, of course. These days you get it tarted up with butter and eggs and lots of spices, which I’m sure folks added as soon as they could get their hands on them. The now-common scoop of vanilla ice cream on top wouldn’t have featured in Plimouth either 😉


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