On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss Thanksgiving food, the controversial history of football, and Black Friday.
At the first Thanksgiving meal in 1621, the colonists and Native Americans probably didn’t eat turkey, but food has always been important to the holiday. Niki noted that the CBS documentary, Harvest of Shame, broadcast the day after Thanksgiving in 1960, showed the political dimensions of food as it highlighted the plight of America’s migrant farm workers. Natalia observed that contemporary conversations about food politics have been shaped in large part by the writings of Michael Pollan.
Football has been played on Thanksgiving Day almost as long as the holiday has been observed. Neil pointed out football has always been controversial because of the violent nature of the game, resulting in the death of 18 players in 1905 alone. Natalia suggested Gail Bederman’s book, Manliness and Civilization, for thinking about football historically, but also recommended Ariel Levy’s New Yorker article about Steubenville and Malcolm Gladwell’s essay comparing football to dogfighting for grappling with the game’s current controversies.
Black Friday Shopping
“Black Friday” didn’t always refer to a day of excessive shopping following Thanksgiving. But now that it does, some stores are opting out of the day’s frenzy or at least refusing to open on Thanksgiving.