Thanksgiving Day is the one national festival which is peculiarly and thoroughly American. Other nations undergo annual sufferings from noise and gunpowder which are analogous to those which are associated in our minds with Fourth of July. Christmas is the common property of the Christian world, although Russia celebrates her Christmas some weeks later than other nations, in order that Russians residing in foreign countries may obtain a double supply of Christmas presents. Thanksgiving Day, however, was the invention of the New England colonists, and though it has since been universally adopted by the American people, no other nation has imitated it. We alone express our annual gratitude by the sacrifice of turkeys, and it is, hence, greatly to be desired that the one exclusively American festival should be in all respects perfect and beyond reproach.
It is impossible to deny that in active practice our method of celebrating the day is open to one serious objection. In spite of the progress which we have made towards a higher morality than that of the last century, we still adhere, on Thanksgiving Day, to one barbarous and demoralizing ceremony. To a great extent the hot New-England rum of our forefathers is banished from our dinner-tables, but the no less deadly and demoralizing pie forms part of every Thanksgiving dinner, no matter how moral and intelligent its consumers may believe themselves to be.
The Thanksgiving array of pie is usually of so varied, as well as lavish a nature, that it seems cunningly devised to entrap even the most innocent palate. If mince-pie alone were set before a virtuous family, it is quite probable that many of its members would have the courage to turn in loathing from the deadly compound, but the Thanksgiving mince-pie is always accompanied or preceded by lighter pies, in which weak-minded persons think they can indulge without injury. The thoughtless matron—for thoughtlessness, and not deliberate wickedness, is indicated by the presence of Thanksgiving pie—urges her guests to take a little chicken-pie, assuring them that it cannot injure a child. The guest who tampers with the chicken-pie is inevitably lost. The chicken-pie crust awakens an unholy hunger for fiercer viands, and when the meats are removed, he is ready and anxious for undiluted apple or pumpkin pie. From that to mince-pie the transition is swift and easy, and in nine cases out of ten the man who attends a Thanksgiving dinner and is lured into touching chicken-pie abandons all self-restraint and delivers himself up to the thraldom of a fierce longing for strong and undisguised mince-pie. Hundreds of men and women who had emancipated themselves by a tremendous effort of the will from the dominion of pie, have backslidden at the Thanksgiving dinner, and have returned to their former degradation with a fiercer appetite than ever, and with little hope that they can find sufficient strength for a second effort towards reformation.
The chief evil of the Thanksgiving display of pie is, however, its terrible influence upon the young. It is a well-known fact, however revolting it may seem when rehearsed in cold blood, that on Thanksgiving Day many a foolish mother has herself pressed pie to the lips of her innocent offspring. To the taste thus created thousands of victims of the pie habit ascribe their ruin. It is a common spectacle on Thanksgiving evening to see scores of children, mere babes in years, writhing under the influence of pie, and making the night hideous with their outcries. Physicians can testify to the appalling results of the pie orgies in which children are thus openly encouraged to take part. The amount of drugs which is consumed by the unhappy little victims on the day following Thanksgiving Day would fill the public with horror were the exact figures to be published. How can we wonder that children who are thus tempted to acquire the taste for pie by their own parents grow up to be shameless and habitual consumers of pie! The good matron who sees a haggard and emaciated man slink into a public pie shop, and presently emerge brushing the tell-tale crumbs from his beard, shudders to think that the unhappy wretch was once as young and innocent as her own darling children. And yet that very matron will sit at the foot of a Thanksgiving table groaning with pie, and will deal out the deadly compound to her children without a thought that she is awakening in them a depraved hunger that will ultimately lead them straight to the pie shop.
All the efforts of good men and women to stay the torrent of pie which threatens to engulf our beloved country will be in vain, unless the reform is begun at the Thanksgiving dinner-table. Pie must be banished from that otherwise innocent board, or it is in vain that we try to banish it from shops, restaurants, and hotels. May we not hope for a great moral crusade which will sweep pie from every virtuous table, and unite all the friends of morality in a vigorous and persistent attack upon the great evil of the land.
The Banker and the Typewriter, 1905: pp. 154-155
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A shocking indictment of the American Thanksgiving pie, hitherto thought to be an innocent holiday indulgence! In England, of course, one of the footmen would read this aloud at tea-time to the accompaniment of hearty laughter. The Temperance-tract language of the parody is quite spot-on. There are, of course, food reformists who rail against pie as the fons et origo of spots and dyspepsia, but those of us who enjoy a nice, flakey lard-based crust consider them cranks. Heaven knows what horrors they would conjure up about Christmas puddings and hard sauce.
Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her American readers the happiest of Thanksgivings with as much pie as they like.
This post was originally published in 2016.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.