Beans: A Holiday Tradition through the Centuries

Turkeys and trimmings will grace tables throughout the holiday season, and it all starts at Thanksgiving. However, the first Thanksgiving menu looked a little different than what we eat today. Before sweet potato casserole and macaroni and cheese, the first “harvest celebration” in 1621 that we recognize as Thanksgiving today likely included corn, squash, venison, and beans.

The common bean, along with maize and squash, was first described by European explorers as early as 1492. Christopher Columbus and his crew noted the diversity of the beans the indigenous people of the Caribbean were cultivating. Though lentils and broad beans were part of the European and Eastern diets prior to exploration of the Americas, the introduction of the South American bean varieties in the mid-16th century made their way into British traditions. In fact, the traditional medieval Twelfth Night Cake, made to celebrate the twelfth day of Christmas, featured a dry bean. When slices of cake were distributed to guests, the diner who received the piece that included the dry bean was crowned the king or queen of the celebration. Today, as many as two-

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