Saturday, November 12, 2011

Once again, we bring you, The First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has changed dramatically since1621, it probably doesn't look very much like the "traditional" one we stuff ourselves with now.

Before we talk about the foods that were served, let's look at 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 1621 that 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:

Dried Beans
Dried Blueberries

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.