FIRST THANKSGIVING: In 1621 the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is now known as the first Thanksgiving. While cooking methods and table etiquette have changed as the holiday has evolved, the meal is still consumed today with the same spirit of celebration and overindulgence.
WHAT WAS ACTUALLY ON THE MENU? What foods topped the table at the first harvest feast? Historians aren’t completely certain about the full bounty, but it’s safe to say the pilgrims weren’t gobbling up pumpkin pie or playing with their mashed potatoes.
THE PILGRIMS’ MENU: Foods That May Have Been on the Menu:
SEAFOOD: Cod, Eel, Clams, Lobster
WILD FOWL: Wild Turkey, Goose, Duck, Crane, Swan, Partridge, Eagles
MEAT: Venison, Seal
GRAIN: Wheat Flour, Indian Corn
VEGETABLES: Pumpkin, Peas, Beans, Onions, Lettuce, Radishes, Carrots
FRUIT: Plums, Grapes
NUTS: Walnuts, Chestnuts, Acorns
HERBS AND SEASONINGS: Olive Oil, Liverwort, Leeks, Dried Currants, Parsnips
WHAT WAS NOT ON THE MENU:Surprisingly, the following foods, all considered staples of the modern Thanksgiving meal, didn’t appear on the pilgrims’s first feast table:
HAM: There is no evidence that the colonists had butchered a pig by this time, though they had brought pigs with them from England.
SWEET POTATOES/POTATOES: These were not common.
CORN ON THE COB: Corn was kept dried out at this time of year.
CRANBERRY SAUCE: The colonists had cranberries but no sugar at this time.
PUMPKIN PIE: It’s not a recipe that exists at this point, though the pilgrims had recipes for stewed pumpkin.
CHICKEN/EGGS: We know that the colonists brought hens with them from England, but it’s unknown how many they had left at this point or whether the hens were still laying.
MILK: No cows had been aboard the Mayflower, though it’s possible that the colonists used goat milk to make cheese.
Dr. Kota Reddy, well known Cardiologist and author of best selling book, Eat This Lose That!, says, “Let’s not get carried away with Thanksgiving and start to overindulge on foods, which can take away from what we are actually thankful for: good, healthy food that we are meant to digest and eat for a healthier well being, just like the pilgrims did.”