Thanksgiving is upon us!

The Mercer County Library System has dozens of books to help you make this year's feast unforgettable! And while you're waiting for your turkey to brown, take a minute or two to learn the meaning behind this annual holiday brimming with stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well
by Sam Sifton

From one of America's finest food writers, the former restaurant critic for The New York Times, comes a definitive, timeless guide to Thanksgiving dinner--preparing it, surviving it, and pulling it off in style. From the planning of the meal to the washing of the last plate, Thanksgiving poses more--and more vexing--problems for the home cook than any other holiday. In this smartly written, beautifully illustrated, recipe-filled book, Sam Sifton, the Times's resident Thanksgiving expert, delivers a message of great comfort and solace: There is no need for fear. You can cook a great meal on Thanksgiving. You can have a great time. With simple, fool-proof recipes for classic Thanksgiving staples, as well as new takes on old standbys, this book will show you that the fourth Thursday of November does not have to be a day of kitchen stress and family drama, of dry stuffing and sad, cratered pies. You can make a better turkey than anyone has ever served you in your life, and you can serve it with gravy that is not lumpy or bland but a salty balm, rich in flavor, that transforms all it touches. Here are recipes for exciting side dishes and robust pies and festive cocktails, instructions for setting the table and setting the mood, as well as cooking techniques and menu ideas that will serve you all year long, whenever you are throwing a big party. Written for novice and experienced cooks alike Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well is your guide to making Thanksgiving the best holiday of the year.

How to Cook a Turkey: And All the Other Trimmings
by the editors of Fine Cooking magazine

This holiday survival guide is meant for a wide range of home cooks: first timers who have no idea where to even begin; more experienced cooks who, nonetheless, forget every year what temperature to cook their turkey at and for how long; and cooks of all levels who like the idea of having one compact holiday handbook of recipes and how-to information specific to their circumstances.
The book contains 100 recipes for everything from appetizers to desserts (including an entire chapter on pies), as well as lots of information on everything to do with turkeys (buying info, thawing times, oven temperatures, cook times), as well as on stuffing and making gravy.

Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday
by James W. Baker

"Baker has incorporated all the available research on Thanksgiving and enriched it with his unparalleled access to original sources as the former director of research at Plimoth Plantation. Most appealing about this book is that it has been produced by an expert on the topic, and one who is also a Plymouth, MA, native. He shows us how Thanksgiving is seen through each generation's reality, having morphed from a holiday for pilgrim hats and turkeys to a cause for Native American protests to a holy day to several ancient holidays combined and a full-scale orgy of food and football. Thanksgiving is not the holiday you think it is and will not be the holiday you know now in 100 years, but it can be whatever holiday you need. There is now a desire to make it an international holiday-Who knows? . . . . This is destined to become the accepted text for research on the history and myth of this most American holiday, and it will be an enjoyable, fascinating read both for students and for anyone looking for a good story."--Booklist

"Baker traces how the [Thanksgiving] celebration has changed over the years. In the 18th century, Thanksgiving was viewed as a day for family reunions, and the Pilgrims were remembered as the symbolic founders of New England. But the connection between the two had been lost by the time George Washington issued the first presidential Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789. . . Baker notes that the struggle over the significance of the Thanksgiving holiday continues, with historical accuracy often the victim of political advantage. But, he argues, 'the holiday's cultural vigor is actually demonstrated by the conflicts and debates that surround it.' For, he observes, 'debate indicates relevance, and the dispute over the appropriate role of Thanksgiving in American life demonstrates that the holiday is very much alive and still evolving.'"--Boston Globe

"James Baker, a former researcher at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, does not wag a scholar's dour finger at what has become a turkey-and-football jamboree. But in his comprehensive and readable history of the holiday, he does remind us that Thanksgiving is more than 'ubiquitous, mass-produced images of buckle-hatted Pilgrims, generic Indians, turkeys, pumpkins, and cornstalks.' For the Puritans aboard the Mayflower, Thanksgiving was a religious service to acknowledge God's providence. Its focus was prayer, not festivity. And while the Massachusetts Pilgrims did celebrate a harvest holiday in fall 1621 with friendly Wampanoags, Baker argues that this landmark event 'meets none of the qualifications for an orthodox Thanksgiving.'"--Washington Post

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War
by Nathaniel Philbrick

From the perilous ocean crossing to the shared bounty of the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim settlement of New England has become enshrined as our most sacred national myth. Yet, as bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick reveals in his spellbinding new book, the true story of the Pilgrims is much more than the well-known tale of piety and sacrifice; it is a fifty-five-year epic that is at once tragic, heroic, exhilarating, and profound. The Mayflower's religious refugees arrived in Plymouth Harbor during a period of crisis for Native Americans as disease spread by European fishermen devastated their populations. Initially the two groups--the Wampanoags, under the charismatic and calculating chief Massasoit, and the Pilgrims, whose pugnacious military officer Miles Standish was barely five feet tall--maintained a fragile working relationship. But within decades, New England would erupt into King Philip's War, a savagely bloody conflict that nearly wiped out English colonists and natives alike and forever altered the face of the fledgling colonies and the country that would grow from them. With towering figures like William Bradford and the distinctly American hero Benjamin Church at the center of his narrative, Philbrick has fashioned a fresh and compelling portrait of the dawn of American history--a history dominated right from the start by issues of race, violence, and religion.

Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World
by Nick Bunker
At the end of 1618, a blazing green star soared across the night sky over the northern hemisphere. From the Philippines to the Arctic, the comet became a sensation and a symbol, a warning of doom or a promise of salvation. Two years later, as the Pilgrims prepared to sail across the Atlantic on board the Mayflower, the atmosphere remained charged with fear and expectation. Men and women readied themselves for war, pestilence, or divine retribution. Against this background, and amid deep economic depression, the Pilgrims conceived their enterprise of exile.

Within a decade, despite crisis and catastrophe, they built a thriving settlement at New Plymouth, based on beaver fur, corn, and cattle. In doing so, they laid the foundations for Massachusetts, New England, and a new nation. Using a wealth of new evidence from landscape, archaeology, and hundreds of overlooked or neglected documents, Nick Bunker gives a vivid and strikingly original account of the Mayflower project and the first decade of the Plymouth Colony. From mercantile London and the rural England of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I to the mountains and rivers of Maine, he weaves a rich narrative that combines religion, politics, money, science, and the sea.

The Pilgrims were entrepreneurs as well as evangelicals, political radicals as well as Christian idealists. Making Haste from Babylon tells their story in unrivaled depth, from their roots in religious conflict and village strife at home to their final creation of a permanent foothold in America.

The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America
by Saul Weidensaul

Frontier : the word carries the inevitable scent of the West. But before Custer or Lewis and Clark, before the first Conestoga wagons rumbled across the Plains, it was the East that marked the frontier--the boundary between complex Native cultures and the first colonizing Europeans. Here is the older, wilder, darker history of a time when the land between the Atlantic and the Appalachians was contested ground--when radically different societies adopted and adapted the ways of the other, while struggling for control of what all considered to be their land. The First Frontier traces two and a half centuries of history through poignant, mostly unheralded personal stories--like that of a Harvard-educated Indian caught up in seventeenth-century civil warfare, a mixed-blood interpreter trying to straddle his white and Native heritage, and a Puritan woman wielding a scalping knife whose bloody deeds still resonate uneasily today. It is the first book in years to paint a sweeping picture of the Eastern frontier, combining vivid storytelling with the latest research to bring to life modern America's tumultuous, uncertain beginnings.

-Lisa S.


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