November 22, 2011

Native American Thanksgiving Feast

On Sunday, I headed out to Garvies Point Museum & Preserve in Glen Cove for their Annual Native American Thanksgiving Feast. It was a crisp, yet sunny day; absolutely perfect for just such an event.

The festivities began on the museum's lower level with a pottery making exhibition. Docents explained how the local natives would grind the clay into a powder with stones, sift out the bits of rock and shell with baskets, add water, and knead it into a smooth consistency for molding. After a pot was sculpted, it would be dried in the sun and then baked in a bark fire until hardened.  

After the explanations were over, each guest was given a ball of clay to form into a native finger pot. I was shown how to create the initial bowl shape, add height with clay coils, and embellish the design using the imprints of pine cones and shells. It was very inspiring to know that I was partaking in an art form in the exact same manner as it was done hundreds of years ago.

After rinsing my hands of the sticky clay, I headed upstairs to the museum's main exhibit hall. Here, I found many displays of artifacts, including tools, clothing, pelts, wampum, and wigwams.

Next on the agenda was the sampling of some native foods. Toward the rear of the museum, tables were laid out with a colorful spread of corn, beans, blueberries, tart cranberries, nuts, breads, and soups. I have heard it been said by professional chefs that more than half of the art of cooking is in the presentation and, if that is true, this display was a 5-star feast for the eyes. I had a most wonderful time sampling the flavors of a distant time and another culture, some of which were quite different in texture and taste as Native Americans (as I heard) didn't use any salt in their cooking preparations.

Some of the native food exhibits continued outdoors around a fire pit with a campfire-cooking demonstration. I saw fish and meats being smoked on racks. Acorn squash sat right on the glowing embers, ready to be cut open and eaten. There's nothing quite as warming as the smell of kindling firewood on a cool autumn morning. That scent stayed with me all day and it was just lovely.

Next came the spear-throwing demonstration. Guests were prompted to try to hit a turkey target on a stack of hay some thirty feet away using a device called an "atlatl." I gave it a try, though, sad to say, my spear barely made it five feet beyond the staging area. LOL.

To round out the festivities, guests were gathered in an outdoor area to hear members of the Redhawk Native American Arts Council tell stories of native life and perform 1860's music and dances. I always love to see tribal dancing and this was great!

The whole event got me very much looking forward to Thanksgiving. I can't wait to start the cooking on Thursday morning. This year, in addition to my turkey gravy, I'll be trying out a new recipe for chestnut stuffing. Ah, the scent of roasting turkey. The Macy's parade. Laurel & Hardy. Oh yes! May your Thanksgiving also be a day of joy and blessings! Love & light...

"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,"
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

~Isaiah 54:10