You may think your Thanksgiving feast contains all the traditional goodies, but goodies in 1621 were a lot harder to come by.
We’ve all seen the paintings and representations of the first Thanksgiving…our Pilgrim forerunners sharing a veritable feast with a group of Native Americans. So for those of us who are set to enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and more, what were the guests eating at that first Thanksgiving in 1621? We’ve checked out the History Channel site to find out.
Turkey – Although turkey was plentiful in that part of the country and was normally eaten by both settlers and tribes, it’s just as likely that they were eating ducks, geese, or swans. In addition, writings from that time indicate that the Wampanoag guests brought five deer with them, so venison was undoubtedly on the menu. It’s also likely that seafood was part of the feast. Remember this was New England where fish, lobster, clams, and most likely mussels, were plentiful.
Stuffing – Probably not, although herbs, onions, or nuts might have been added to the birds for flavor.
Cranberries – Native Americans used this fruit as a natural dye and ate them as well, but they might have been just a bit too tart for the settlers’ taste. They couldn’t have made sauces yet because the sugar they brought with them from England was almost gone by that point in time
Vegetables – Likely that they served beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots, and peas; at least some of those are probably on your plate this year as well. Although corn was a staple, back then the corn was boiled and pounded into a thick corn mush or porridge, usually sweetened with molasses (yum!)
Potatoes – Afraid not. Indigenous to South America, and introduced to Europeans by the Spanish in the 1500’s, the settlers didn’t have access to one of our most popular foods. Instead they ate turnips. Whether turnips made it on the table at the Thanksgiving feast is anyone’s guess.
Pumpkin Pie – What’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie? Still Thanksgiving, but the Pilgrims were used to eating pumpkin, they didn’t’ have the butter, and wheat flour to make the pie crust. Instead they would often hollow out pumpkins and fill the shells with milk, honey, and spices, creating a pudding.
May you and your family have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving…and some pumpkin pie!