Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

                                                “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus 

This week, in America, we’ll celebrate the colonization of our land with (socially-distanced) feasts and family gatherings. Thanksgiving is a time of celebration, a time of unity and a time to appreciate all that we have. At our house, the feast will include turkey, dressing and gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots, maybe brussel sprouts or spinach for something green, and of course, pumpkin pie or maybe, peaches over ice cream for dessert.

Thanksgiving can also be fraught with political overtones, from the decimation of native American populations to the enslavement and oppression of immigrants from China, Europe and Africa. There are those that claim immigrants are not to be welcomed, but shunned or imprisoned. This is hypocritical, since the only non-immigrant humans in our country are Native Americans. Once the Spanish and English waves of colonization ebbed, immigrants from other parts of Europe and the rest of the world came here. Many were enticed by freedom from oppression, others came to work and find better lives. Of course, many were brought as slaves to do the work that others would not.

Having dealt with the concept of invasive species in flora and  fauna, it’s interesting to hear some of the discussions around colonization and immigration. Some human immigrants come inadvertently, almost through a random process. And some arrive intentionally.

Our Thanksgiving meal is sprinkled with the products of both. Turkeys and pumpkins are native to the New World, as are potatoes — though from South America, not the north. Some grains in the dressing are probably native, but most come from Asian lineage. Much of what we’ll eat are not native to America. In Modern Farmer, Lindsay Campbell discussed the origin of a few of our favorite foods:

Peaches – The official state fruit of Georgia is one of the most ancient domesticated fruits … brought to the US by Spanish monks in the mid-1500s to what is now Florida.

Apples – What’s more American than apple pie, right? Well actually most things … the first relatives of the apples we commonly consume today came from the mountains of Kazakhstan. Remember Johnny Appleseed?

Spinach – first grew in Persia, which is now Iran. The superfood made its way to Europe in the fifteenth century. It was first cultivated in the US in the early 1800s. And it was used to torture American kids since that time — in spite of Popeye’s ministrations.

Carrots – likely originated in Central Asia and were cultivated in Persia as early as the tenth century.  European settlers introduced the crop to North American when they arrived in the 1600s.

Peanuts – Georgia’s official crop, peanuts weren’t grown in the US until the 1700s … peanuts were grown in South America, around the eastern side of the Andes Mountains. The Spanish spread them to Europe, the coasts of Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Oranges – Early Spanish explorers first planted orange trees in St. Augustine in the mid-1500s, having grown in the southeast foothills of the Himalayas eight million years ago.

Overall, I’d say we’re lucky that these gastronomical immigrants, along with a slew of others, came to our shores. It would be a pretty dull Thanksgiving, not to mention the rest of the year, without these foods or those people.

I think I’ll start my celebration with mimosas and peanuts.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Additional information:

Lindsay Campbell, 6 Crops You Might be Surprised Aren’t Native to the US, November 23, 2020, Modern Farmer

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