Pumpkins and cranberries highlighted that first Thanksgiving in 1621. After the devastation of scurvy, when many pilgrims died, a celebration was in order for the surviving few. As the story goes, native people brought bright red cranberries as part of the feast. If it took a sound measure of sweetener to transform the tart, meaty berry, so be it! Vitamin C carried the day.
Those first immigrants survived, probably because of the assistance they received from the native Wampanoag people. The berry was called “sassamenesh” by the Algonquin, another east coast tribe. I’m proud to say I carry some of their DNA.
Dried cranberries were finely minced with wild game and fat and pressed into cakes which were dried. This was much like the Chinook practice of mixing salal berries with smoked salmon and animal fat or fish oil and preserving them for the long, wet winters in the Pacific Northwest.
The Long Beach Peninsula is a natural habitat for the cranberry. Like the growth of this indigenous berry in Maine and parts of Canada, the Peninsula was the beneficiary of the delicacy long before the Euro-Americans laid claim on the Chinook’s ancient homeland. Through slump and peak seasons, the berry and the hard-working farmers have survived. The berry became the official representative of Thanksgiving and Christmas, but its popularity suffered through other seasons, though less so once people discovered cranberry juice.
Laurie, my Scandinavian-American partner and wife, created her cranberry pot roast on a cold breezy day in November. She chooses a chuck roast, which when slow-cooked breaks down into a rich and flavorful roast. It is also relatively affordable, at least compared to many other cuts of beef. The addition of orange rind, cinnamon and cloves to the cranberry sauce fills the air with the aroma of the holidays.
Especially during our colder months of the year, this meal accompanied by a roaring fire and a glass of your favorite red wine is sure to please.