Thanksgiving – The Cornucopia

Mrs. Wallis was a very gracious lady who was very involved with organizations in Paris, Lexington, and New York  She also loved sharing her gardens with both adults and children. No doubt this time of year, her dining table was filled with produce from the cutting and vegetable gardens, perhaps arranged in a cornucopia.

We owe the ancient Greeks and Romans for much of our culture from language, art, and even for many of us our traditional Thanksgiving table decorations, specifically the Cornucopia. The wicker basket derives its name from Latin [cornua (horn) and copia (plenty)] for its horn-shape filled to over-flowing with garden produce and flowers. The tradition stems from the Greek myth that Zeus, when he was an infant, broke a horn off a goat that then spilled out foods to nourish him.

As abundant as produce and flowers have been this year, it is appropriate that they should provide the centerpiece for Thanksgiving table. For those who do not have vegetable gardens, reserve a few of the vegetables that will be served on Thanksgiving and later. In place of the cornucopia, any container can be used.

Making the design can be tricky, as each piece must be secured or at least well balanced. I find it easiest to make it in place. Select your container and place it on a tray or water-proof placemat to protect the table. Collect wire, b-b-que skewers, florist stakes, and florist water picks.

Then select the produce. Choose your favorites, remembering you’re limited by the space available, and also do not use fruits or vegetables with high moisture content such as oranges or tomatoes.(too juicy unless hard green) and anything that will attract ants or other insects. Look for small pumpkins, eggplant (purple, white, etc.) corn (Indian, partially shucked yellow) gourds (all colors, sizes and skin texture), dried colorful leaves, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pomegranates.

A pumpkin or gourd stuffed in the opening of the basket provides weight to stabilize it and works an anchor for the vegetables. Place large vegetables first then fill in with smaller. For the last step, use skewers to pin grapes and other cascading fruits. Allow small produce to ‘spill’ out of the basket and on the backside as well.

If serving a buffet, place the cornucopia there.  On the dining table, you can place some of the small produce down the center, though of course, decorating is a personal thing. Do what pleases you.


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