Indigenous Echoes In A Thanksgiving Feast

Pumpkin soup ingredients i i

The Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., offers a Thanksgiving menu that reflects indigenous culinary traditions. Beth Novey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Beth Novey/NPR
Pumpkin soup ingredients

The Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., offers a Thanksgiving menu that reflects indigenous culinary traditions.

Beth Novey/NPR
Pumpkin soup i i

Pumpkin and crab apple soup is featured on Mitsitam's Thanksgiving menu. The recipe calls for pumpkin, butternut squash, crab apples, onions and turnips. Beth Novey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Beth Novey/NPR
Pumpkin soup

Pumpkin and crab apple soup is featured on Mitsitam's Thanksgiving menu. The recipe calls for pumpkin, butternut squash, crab apples, onions and turnips.

Beth Novey/NPR
Soup simmers on the fire in the kitchen of the National Museum of the American Indian. i i

The cafe uses indigenous ingredients and traditional cooking methods. Above, pumpkin and crab apple soup simmers over the fire. Beth Novey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Beth Novey/NPR
Soup simmers on the fire in the kitchen of the National Museum of the American Indian.

The cafe uses indigenous ingredients and traditional cooking methods. Above, pumpkin and crab apple soup simmers over the fire.

Beth Novey/NPR
Executive chef Bruce Barnes and sous chef Nate S. Auchter i i

Bruce Barnes (left) is executive chef and Nate Auchter is sous chef at the Mitsitam Cafe. Mitsitam means "let's eat" in the native Piscataway and Delaware language. Beth Novey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Beth Novey/NPR
Executive chef Bruce Barnes and sous chef Nate S. Auchter

Bruce Barnes (left) is executive chef and Nate Auchter is sous chef at the Mitsitam Cafe. Mitsitam means "let's eat" in the native Piscataway and Delaware language.

Beth Novey/NPR
Pumpkin soup with bean salad and gourds. i i

Soup Is Served: Finished with hazelnut oil and garnished with Saguaro cactus seeds, the soup is paired with salads featuring the "three sisters" trio: corn, beans and squash. Beth Novey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Beth Novey/NPR
Pumpkin soup with bean salad and gourds.

Soup Is Served: Finished with hazelnut oil and garnished with Saguaro cactus seeds, the soup is paired with salads featuring the "three sisters" trio: corn, beans and squash.

Beth Novey/NPR

Turkeys, apples, cranberries, pumpkins — there's no way of knowing whether these foods were served at the first Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth, Mass., in 1621. Pilgrim chefs did not leave menus, nor did their indigenous culinary mentors.

The Wampanoag people, who shared the autumn feast with the colonists, had occupied the Cape Cod region in Massachusetts for thousands of years; they shared techniques and food and helped the newcomers survive in an unfamiliar environment.

Though historians aren't entirely sure what was served at the first Thanksgiving meal, the chefs at the National Museum of the American Indian have developed a menu reflecting various tribal culinary traditions.

The Mitsitam Native Food Cafe — Mitsitam means "let's eat" in the native Piscataway and Delaware language — uses Native American suppliers and traditional cooking methods.

"I think cooking connects you to any culture," says executive chef Bruce Barnes. "Through cooking, you actually feel a culture's soul and spirit."

Barnes and sous chef Nate Auchter explain the contributions of Native peoples to American culinary traditions, and demonstrate how to make pumpkin crab apple soup using traditional indigenous ingredients.

Pumpkin And Crab Apple Soup

Makes about 2 gallons

1 pumpkin, medium size
4 butternut squash
25 crabapples, split and seeded
2 yellow onions
1 turnip
3 sage stems
6 chervil stems
4 thyme stems
2 cups white wine
2 cups cream
1/4 cup canola or blended oil
4 quarts vegetable or chicken broth or stock
salt and pepper to taste
hazelnut oil and Saguaro cactus seeds, optional, for garnish

Peel and chop the pumpkin, butternut squash and apples. Toss with a little oil, salt and pepper, and roast them in a 400-degree oven until soft and slightly browned.

Dice the onions and turnips and sweat them in oil. Once slightly translucent, add the wine and reduce by half, then add the roasted vegetables and apples.

Add just enough broth or stock to cover. Throw in salt and pepper to lightly season, along with the bouquet of sage, chervil and thyme stems.

Cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until everything is soft. Remove the bouquet, add the cream and puree the soup.

Check seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with hazelnut oil and a sprinkling of Saguaro cactus seeds, if desired, before serving.

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