Monday, November 9, 2009

The First Thanksgiving

We love Thanksgiving, what's not to like?
You may remember, Thanksgiving was voted best holiday meal here on the Voodoo Kitchen poll.

We received 549 total votes.

Thanksgiving (234)

Christmas (148)
St. Patrick's Day (67)
4th of July (65)
Easter (14)
Halloween (12)
New Years (8)
Memorial Day (1)

Edward Winslow wrote the only written eyewitness account of the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1621.
As you suspect that first Thanksgiving probably doesn't look like the traditional one we enjoy so much.

Let's get to it, here are the foods that were not served at the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
  • Turkey - Turkey may have been served because it was often eaten by both the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims but is not specifically mentioned in Winslows’ letter. He writes about “wild fowl” only, which may have been duck or geese.
  • Cranberry Sauce - It was fifty years after 1621that anyone mentions  cranberry sauce for use with meat in English recipes. Prior to this time sugar, a necessary in cranberry sauce was an incredibly expensive import. Both the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag added cranberries for tartness in a dish, but cranberry sauce itself would not appear until the 1670’s.
  • Potatoes - White potatoes were unknown in England at the time of the first Thanksgiving, they were  not a part of the English diet. Sweet potatoes were, in the early 1600’s, imported into England from Spain and were used only by the super rich.
  • Pumpkin Pie - Pumpkin pie as we know it wasn't served, but pumpkin and squash were included in the feast but served as vegetables only. Some time after 1621, pumpkin dessert recipes included pumpkin.
Foods Served at the Original Thanksgiving Feast
In addition to the wild fowl (maybe turkey) pumpkin and squash mentioned above, the following foods were certainly abundant and most likely were included in the “harvest” celebration:
  • Fish
  • Lobsters
  • Eel
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Corn
  • Parsnips
  • Collards
  • Turnips
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Dried Beans
  • Dried Blueberries
  • Grapes
  • Nuts

1621 Thanksgiving Meal Details

  • The celebration was a three day event, not one, and it was feasting and entertainment, including games and the shooting of muskets.
  • It may have been held in October, not November.
  • There is no evidence that the Wampanoag indians were explicitly invited.
  • It was not called “Thanksgiving”. It was a “harvest festival”.
  • It was not intended to become an annual event.