In advance of Thanksgiving, we would be remiss to acknowledge a very important anniversary. Tomorrow marks the 150th anniversary of the creation of a national Thanksgiving holiday, in 1863. I recently learned about this anniversary from Amanda Moniz, a historian in the DC area who, on top of blogging about the intersection of American history and food, frequently offers a history-infused baking class at the Hill Center. On Sunday I had the opportunity to attend her latest offering, “Civil War Thanksgiving,” that honored some of the traditional Thanksgiving recipes from the 19th century, taken directly from the recipe book of Sarah Josepha Hale, a pioneering writer and advocate during the Civil War era who famously campaigned for an official Thanksgiving holiday.
On a blustery Sunday morning, I joined a small gathering of strangers at the Hill Center to learn more about traditional Civil War Thanksgiving feasts and Sarah Hale herself. Moniz, who is an experienced pastry chef in her own right, led us through a series of baking recipes (including making a squash pie and apple cider shortcake) while telling the story of Hale, her cultural influence, and more broadly, how and why Thanksgiving became an important side note in the saga of the Civil War. Below are pictures from the baking event, and I encourage readers to visit Moniz’s blog here. Moniz cleverly demonstrated to us all the significance of this holiday, as well as the centrality of history in the meals we share.