No, the English don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but they do have their own breeds of turkeys. At left, a handsome Norfolk black, and on the right, a Cambridge bronze, tho I’m afraid to me they just look like turkeys. Did you know male turkeys are called stags?
Turkeys came to England from Spain in the sixteenth century, and the aristocracy, accustomed to dining off large birds such as swans, cranes, and peacocks, gobbled them up. Turkeys were bred in East Anglia, and each year in late August thousands were herded to London to be sold–now that’s a mind-boggling thought, herding a bunch of turkeys, not the cleverest of birds–and they were fitted with little leather boots to protect their feet (aaaaw). Pepys mentions eating turkey around Christmas time, and the Mayflower pilgrims took some East Anglian turkeys with them to the New World where they were bred with the native species. Goose was still the traditional Christmas dish in the regency (along with capons, roast beef, or rabbit depending upon the family income) but was gradually phased out by the turkey–one reason for the immense popularity of goose is that since it’s an acquatic bird it has a large fat layer, much prized then for cooking and for use as a preservative.
Happy thanksgiving, everyone!