Thanksgiving today includes seasonal dishes mmm. . . roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. This famous holiday feast dates back to November 1621, and it’s now around 400 years old!
Who held the first Thanksgiving dinner party?
The newly arrived Pilgrims, better known as “the colonists” and the Wampanoag (American-Indians) gathered at Plymouth for an autumn harvest celebration, and this is officially regarded as America’s “first Thanksgiving”
The Original Menu
But what was really on the menu at the famous banquet, and which of today’s favorites didn’t earn a place at the table?
At that moment. . .
“there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.” Wild turkey was indeed plentiful in the region and a common food source for both English settlers and Native Americans. But it is likely that the party returned with other birds, we know the colonists regularly consumed: ducks, geese and swans. Instead of bread-based stuffing, herbs, onions or nuts might have been added to the birds for extra flavor
Culinary historians speculate that deer was probably served too, roasted on a spit over a smoldering fire and that the colonists might have used some of the venison to whip up a hearty stew
And the Veggies. . .
Local vegetables that likely appeared on the table include onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and perhaps peas. Corn, which records show was plentiful at the first harvest, might also have been served, but not in the way most people enjoy it now. In those days, the corn would have been removed from the cob and turned into cornmeal, which was then boiled and pounded into a thick corn porridge that was maybe sweetened with molasses (did not expect that one)
Fruits indigenous to the region included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries and, of course cranberries, which Native Americans ate and used as a natural dye. The Pilgrims might have been familiar with cranberries by the first Thanksgiving, but they wouldn’t have made sauces and relishes with those. Cooks didn’t begin boiling cranberries with sugar and using the mixture as an accompaniment for meats until about 50 years later.
And unexpectedly. . .
This is how the panorama for Seafood looked in New England in the XVII Century:
“Our bay is full of lobsters all the summer and affordeth variety of other fish; in September we can take a hogshead of eels in a night with small labor, and can dig them out of their beds all the winter. We have mussels… at our doors. Oysters we have none near, but we can have them brought by the Indians when we will.”Colonist Edward Winslow
Predictions count on plenty of seafood in the menu for the original Thanksgiving dinner, including Lobster, clams and oysters
Potatoes did not make it 😉
Whether mashed or roasted, white or sweet, potatoes had no place at the first Thanksgiving, that’s a fact!
The Pumpkin Pie:
Both the Pilgrims and Indians ate pumpkins and other squashes indigenous to New England, but the colony lacked the butter and wheat flour necessary for making pie crust. Also, settlers hadn’t yet constructed an oven for baking. According to some accounts, early English settlers in North America improvised by hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey and spices to make a custard, then roasting the gourds whole in hot ashes.
*Images and data taken from history.com website