Some of us are going vegan this Thanksgiving. Others are going gluten-free or maybe paleo. But it’s not likely many of us are going Pilgrim. See if you know which of these foods were on the table that first Thanksgiving:
Yes. According to the account of Edward Winslow, a colony leader, wild turkeys were eaten that first Thanksgiving. But, said Lewis-Clark State College associate professor Amy Canfield, it wouldn’t have been the centerpiece of the meal like it is for us.
Probably. It’s possible that first Thanksgiving table had an ocean view. With such proximity to a food source, it’s likely that fish, shellfish and yes, even lobster, were aplenty.
Yes. But not the corn-on-the-cob variety that we typically associate with the Pilgrims. The corn the Wompanoag Nation grew was small and multicolored; it was used more like a grain that was made into breads and porridge.
No. Potatoes originated in South and Central America and hadn’t yet made their way as far north as Plymouth at the time of the Pilgrims.
No. Cranberries are cultivated in the area now, but they weren’t when the Pilgrims were there. Canfield said cranberry sauce didn’t even come about until around 50 years after that first Thanksgiving was celebrated.
Yes. Waterfowl — both ducks and geese — were likely one of the featured menu items. Because of the area’s wetlands, these would have been much more abundant than turkeys.
Yes. When the Wompanoag Nation came to the feast, they didn’t bring a fruit salad or green bean casserole; they brought five deer. So yes, our first Thanksgiving menu was a little protein heavy.
No. There were pumpkins — or at least pumpkin-like varieties of squash — but wheat didn’t, and still doesn’t, grow in Plymouth. Neither does sugar. Or cans of evaporated milk.
“Hooray we’re still Alive!”
Thanksgiving wasn’t always about deep fried turkey and football. Here’s the tale of its humble beginnings
Add a birthday cake to the Thanksgiving festivities; the official holiday turns 150 years old this year.
And it must be said that the years have been kind to this holiday. From its inception, the celebration has revolved around food. Modern appliances are a definite upgrade from the outdoor spit roast. Televised football games and parades provide a few more entertainment options for the times when there’s no cooking or eating to be done.
The first Thanksgiving wasn’t called such; it was a harvest festival. After bringing in a good harvest and surviving one year in Plymouth, the Pilgrims felt it was fitting to say, “Hooray, we’re still alive.” And that they were was something of a miracle.
“They wouldn’t have made it without the help of the local Indian nation, the Wompanoags,” said Amy Canfield, an associate professor of history at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston.
About half of the Pilgrims died in that first year as it was. Had it not been for Squanto — whose life circumstances had taught him English — and the help of the Wompanoag Nation, it’s possible none would have survived.
Between the woodlands, where waterfowl and deer lived among chestnut, walnut and beech nut trees, and the cultivated crops, the Wompanoag Nation enjoyed one of the best, most diverse diets in North America. They shared their knowledge and resources with the Pilgrims, teaching them how to grow local foods and introducing them to the food bounty of the region.
In fact, the Pilgrims had just signed a friendship treaty with the tribe, agreeing to a trade alliance and pledging assistance in case of attack. It was not a relationship of equals, Canfield said, but within the context of this now formally recognized relationship, the Pilgrims invited the Wompanoag Nation to a three-day feast of celebration.
Over the years, various groups have commemorated this first “Thanksgiving,” but it didn’t become a national holiday until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln, in an effort to unite the country in the midst of the Civil War, declared it a national holiday.
And we’ve been stuffing ourselves with turkey on Thanksgiving ever since.