The Saucy Side of Thanksgiving

The Brand Historian’s Timeline : 1912

Culinary products and the cooking habits they reinforce, tell us much about a nation’s history and culture. Nowhere is this truer than in the United States where successive waves of immigrants have made the cooking and eating landscape so diverse and remarkable. Today, a visit to the grocery store is like a geological time trip where it is possible to discern the sedimentary effects of successive waves of immigration.

By tradition, it all starts in 1621 with the first Thanksgiving Dinner, when the Pilgrim colonists entertained their Native American guests to a huge feast. Whilst the Puritans were not big at celebrating Christmas (remember Cromwell banned dancing and closed the theatres too), they certainly made up with it with a three-day November protein-fest featuring a whole gallimaufry of seafood and game, possibly including Wild Turkey. 

The moment cranberry sauce was served for the first time at Thanksgiving is lost in the mists of Dennis, but by 1796, Amelia Simmons’ first American cookbook included a recipe for it, and by 1816, Cape Cod’s swampy wastelands were being drained so that largescale commercial cranberry bogs could be developed. Farmers had discovered a good wind blowing sand over the vines helped promote vigorous growth. By 1864, Cranberry Sauce was such an important adjunct to a Yankee Thanksgiving dinner that General Grant laying siege to Petersburg, Va. ordered that his troops be supplied with tons of cranberries so they could celebrate the holiday in the appropriate way before resuming their pummelling of the Rebs.

From the nineteenth century onwards many popular culinary ingredients were being industrialised and in 1912, Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce was introduced by a Plymouth bog owner called Marcus L. Urann who, as the cranberry season is a very short, had built a cannery to make the most of his and his farmer chums’ production. Quite the savvy entrepreneur, he also ‘borrowed’ the brand name from a West Coast fish business but added the breaking ocean wave and the vine. He died in 1963 having built one of the most popular superfoods. The jury is still out on his 1941 jellied cranberry log though.

The Brand Historian wishes all his American friends Happy Holidays and proposes for your Thanksgiving Dinner cornucopia the following treats:

1940 Butterball Turkey 

1949 Sara Lee Cheese Cake

1958 Green Giant Co. Green Beans

1972 Stove Top Stuffing

Suggested Playlist: Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1912)

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