“It was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land.” Michael V. Gannon made that statement in his book The Cross in the Sand, but he wasn’t referring to a similar event more than 50 years later in Plymouth. The event occurred in St. Augustine, in 1565 when Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded the town. It is possible the first Thanksgiving dinner in American occurred when Spanish explorers celebrated with Timucuan Indians in the St. Augustine area. It is also possible that some form of Spanish Bean Soup was served along with roasted turkey, succotash, smoked mullet and roasted pumpkin.
A Spanish bean soup recipe is featured in the 1950s community cookbook, published in Tallahassee by the local garden club, Camellia Cookery using Minorcan Datil peppers. I also included a simple version of the recipe in Easy Breezy Florida Cooking, Taste of Tampa Ham and Bean Soup.
“The idea of combining meats and vegetables in a stew to produce something delicious has been carried on for generations. Soups and stews were an economical and easy way to incorporate many of the regional foods in one dish, freeing up time for other chores. At Florida missions, stews were cooked over a fire with the pot attached to a pole, or they used a three-legged iron pot that was placed among the hot coals. Native Americans used herbs and other leaves for flavoring…Combining the foods of two distinctly different cultures, Native American and Spanish in this case, oftentimes results in the best of both worlds, as this mission stew reveals. Using indigenous ingredients alongside Spanish imports and simmering for hours over an open flame, this stew could be served day or night as desired.” A Culinary History of Florida
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound beef shank
1 pound pork chop
½ pound chicken breast
1 Spanish onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 16-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
1 cup baby lima beans, frozen
2 tablespoons fine ground cornmeal, optional
In a wide, deep pot melt butter, then brown beef, pork and chicken on all sides. Stir in onion and garlic; cook 3 minutes. Add 6 cups of water, bay leaf, salt and pepper; bring to a boil, reduce to a slow simmer and cook covered for 3 hours. Remove bay leaf and bones. (At this point meat should be falling off the bones.) Increase heat to high, add squash and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 30–45 minutes, or until squash is tender. Stir in garbanzo beans, corn and lima beans, cook 15 minutes longer. If your stew is too thin you can stir about 2 tablespoons of fine cornmeal into ¼ cup of water and add to the simmering pot, then continue cooking for 15 minutes.