- The Sunday before Thanksgiving has become America's
"Redeem Your Free Turkey" coupon day. The busiest food shopping
day of the year will not be dampened by USDA's official Mad Cow Disease
announcement. Bureaucrats correctly reasons that to release bad news or
any news at this moment would result in a consumer avoidance of beef and
hamburger on this cash-cow day, so that news will be released later in
the week so as not to hurt supermarkets and cattlemen. Timing is everything
when it comes to USDA deceit.
- Please share the true Thanksgiving story with your
and loved ones. Have a happy turkey-free (and meat-free)
- The first year in America the Pilgrims had very little
for which to be thankful. That first bitter winter they had limited food
supplies, poor clothing and crudely built housing. During the months before
spring, fifteen of the eighteen married women died as did twenty-two of
thirty-eight men. Because of this great trauma of death from starvation,
something had to be done to assure the future survival of the
- In March of 1624, the first dairy animals came to
on the ship Charity, which delivered three cows and a bull to the grateful
pilgrims. Within a generation every family in America had a dairy cow.
Milk from these cows was churned into butter. Will and Ariel Durant who
wrote "The Story of Civilization" revealed that a typical dairy
cow in the 12th century yielded little milk. One can assume that cows in
the 1600s yielded as much milk as cows in the 1300s. In "The Age of
Faith, History of Life in the Middle Ages," the Durants wrote:
- "Dairy farming was unprogressive; the average cow
in the thirteenth century gave little milk, and hardly a pound of butter
- Making butter requires 21.2 pounds of milk for each
pound of butter. One quart of milk weighs 2.15 pounds. A dairy cow in
Rock, Massachusetts might have yielded his Pilgrim family "hardly
a pound of butter per week." That averaged out to three pounds of
milk per day, about a quart and-a-half.
- People who believe that early Americans drank milk as
a routine part of their diet do not consider how little milk cows gave.
Nor do they consider the existence of butter churns. Butter churns weren't
hood ornaments for Pilgrim's carriages. Pilgrims used them only for one
purpose: to churn milk into butter. That three pounds of milk per day would
yield only one-half stick of butter. Imagine fifteen of the eighteen
wives dying during the first winter. Imagine the same proportion of the
mothers in your community dying from starvation over the winter. You'd
need emergency rations to survive. Fat from milk, stored underground, saved
for the winter months. Got milk? No way! One-half stick of butter per day,
one pound of butter per week, carefully and strenuously churned by a
and stored for the cruel New England winter.
- Did the Pilgrims drink and store milk in the summer?
Milk was loaded with bacteria that quickly spoiled, making it undrinkable.
By churning the milk into butter and storing it underground, the fat was
saved until it was needed. The Pilgrim experience made it necessary for
every family to carefully store food through the bountiful months so that
they might survive the hardships of winter. Butter became their insurance
policy. It became necessary for every New England family to own a dairy
cow. In a few years, that's just what happened.
- Imagine the depression of imminent death by starvation.
You come to a new world without food and shelter, haven't bathed in three
months and are wearing the same clothes in which you started your voyage.
It's December of 1620 and it's snowing, you've sent a landing party ashore
and stolen corn from some very angry Abenaki Indians who would like nothing
better than to shoot their arrows at you. (Which they did!) Didn't the
Pilgrims bear in mind the Eighth Commandment, "Thou shalt not
Obviously not! They left England, seeking religious freedom, or so our
school children are taught, and immediately broke one of God's commandments
by stealing food from the Indians. How would you handle such fear? By
half of your fellows are dead.
- The Pilgrims had actually planned for the harsh winter
of 1620. They sailed from Holland to London to Southampton, England, where
they boarded the Mayflower, bringing along their provisions. There was
one problem. At this point in their journey, they were broke and they could
not pay their bills. Owing 100 English pounds, they couldn't sail until
they paid this bill. So they sold some of their provisions, a calculated
gamble which put them at the mercy of diminished resources and divine
Unfortunately, their resources were inadequate. The bet didn't work.
William Bradford relates:
- "So they were forced to sell off some of their
to stop this gap, which was some three or four-score firkins of butter,
commodity they might best spare, having which provided too large a quantity
of that kind."
- They sold their insurance policy, their food for the
winter, their butter, and with it the lives of half of their number. A
letter written on August 3, 1620, to the "beloved friends" of
these Pilgrims explained:
- "We are in such a strait at present, as we are
to sell away our provisions to clear the haven and withal to put ourselves
upon great extremities, scarce having any butter...we are willing to expose
ourselves to such eminent dangers as are like to ensue, and trust to the
good providence of God..."
- They sold the concentrated fat that would have helped
them to survive in New England. Had they not sold this treasure, they would
have most certainly not starved and suffered the trauma of seeing half
their number perish. Would a three-day Thanksgiving have been called for,
the following year? All because they sold their butter. How much butter
did they intend to bring to the New World? Some "three to four-score
firkins." William Bradford, author of "Plymouth Plantation,"
said that the Pilgrims sold approximately 4,040 pounds of butter. That
meant that every man woman and child was rationed 40 pounds of butter.
By today's standards, in order to produce those 4,040 pounds of butter
they would have required 85,648 quarts of milk. A herd of 100 cows, each
producing one quart of milk per day would have taken nearly eight months
to produce that much milk. Now, that's a lot of churning!
- The Pilgrim diaries reveal the favorite food of the
Americans at the first Thanksgiving. Their food of choice was "rancid
butter." One can only imagine the salmonella, E. coli, bovine
clostridium and colonies of paratuberculosis thriving in that rancid
Indians fell in love with the creamy taste of the Pilgrim's butter. They
traded furs and fish, meat and land for this much desired commodity. Were
flu-stricken Pilgrims sneezing behind trees in the woods responsible for
the deaths of one million Abenaki and Wampaunoag? Was it perhaps the Native
American's love for the rancid butter, the gift of the bovines? Our day
of giving thanks might very well have been their day of destruction.
- Robert Cohen