Ingredients For A (R)eel Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here and people all over the U.S. are preparing to celebrate in their own unique ways. Some gather with family, while others draw the shades and relax. No matter how you celebrate, there are a few things that will probably make an appearance (in some form) at your Thanksgiving feast: turkey, cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

But these “traditional” foods are modern Thanksgiving paraphenalia. They’re somewhat different from the ingredients that would have graced the First Thanksgiving table.

Here are some of the foods the Indians probably shared with the starving and sickly Pilgrims so many years ago.

Eel: Today, the NY Times celebrated this early American staple, and reprinted a telling section from “Mourt’s Relation,” mostly written by a Plymouth resident, Edward Winslow: “Squanto went at noon to fish for eels. At night he came home with as many as he could well lift in one hand, which our people were glad of. They were fat and sweet. He trod them out with his feet, and so caught them with his hands without any other instrument.”

The article went on to point out that the fish proved essential to the endurance of the Pilgrims, and it is fitting that a river near Plymouth Colony was named Eel River.

Venison: The story goes that the Wampanoags also helped in supplementing the food supplies by contributing five deer they had killed and probably other supplies out of courtesy.

Turkey: Unlike many of the other traditional Thanksgiving dishes, this one is probably accurate. Winslow’s account tells us that General Bradford sent four of his soldiers to hunt for wild fowls, and they returned with such a large number with them that it could feed the whole village for a week. Since the wild turkey was quite prevalent during that time, it probably made an appearance at the feast after being roaster for hours over an open fire.

Lobster and Fish: The first Pilgrim colony was set up close to the water’s edge, right where they had landed. Marine life in the ocean would have been one of the most convenient sources of food (if they could catch it). Since it would still be a while before industry began polluting the ocean, this seafood was actually safe to eat!

What About The Veggies? These days, we can’t imagine a Thanksgiving Feast without mashed potatoes, candied yams, and green bean casserole. Unfortunately, potatoes were unavailable in those days and butter and oil were scarce. It’s likely that stewed pumpkin, squashes, onions, hickory nuts, and leeks did make an appearance though.

No matter what you eat, or how you celebrate… Happy Thanksgiving!

Image Credit: letterstorob


Sumit jamadar
Sumit jamadar5 years ago


David N.
David N.5 years ago

Interesting! We have straied away from the original foods. However, it's not really about the food. It's about giving thanks.

Jami Winn
Jami Winn5 years ago

i eat corn dogs nothing fancy takes way too long to cook

Jack Setson
Jack Setson5 years ago

I would love to hold a Thanksgiving celebration that showcased foods like this!

Malana A.
Malana Ashlie5 years ago

I'm an expat living in Honduras. I like the Thanksgiving holiday as a day set aside for being grateful.It can be difficult in a 24/7 society to set aside time to REALLY acknowledge and be in a state of gratitude for the abundance in our lives.

Being accepted outsiders (token gringos) living in a typical Honduran community was a taste of what it might have been like for our 'illegal immigrant' founding fathers. At least an interesting shift in perspective.

We made 'Stone Soup' ( the story is on Wikipedia) and shared with neighbors and Volunteers; about 50 folks. Everyone contributes one thing to the soup and everyone shares the reward. "es rico".

Sheri P.
Sheri P.5 years ago

EWWWW! Not a vegetarian-friendly menu back then...

Yannick Avola
Past Member 5 years ago


Julianna D.
Juliana D.5 years ago


Melissah Chadwick
Melissah C.5 years ago


John H.
John Charles H.5 years ago

Change the holiday to rid itself of all the implied lies that the settlers were fair, nice to,honest with, or even in most cases, even cordial to the American Indians. Make it a holiday for the gathering of families friends and relations, a holiday when we also give to those less fortunate, and I am including medicines,and other goods to the poor outside of this land. Would it be possible to be honest for a change? While we think about that, how about getting rid of the 'Big Lie" holiday, of Columbus Day. Why not make it a day to honor the indigenous people of this land? Most are still poor. The myth of the casino wealth is for most Native Americans just that, a myth. It would do many people well to realize, that land was not sold to the Eurasians who came here. In some cases, it was loaned in exchange for gifts, with the understanding on BOTH sides, that it would be vacated or subject to renewal of use when the original term ended. The beads for Manhattan story is simply a lie, as is the story that the Pilgrims were given land. Most tribes had already been diminished in population well before Jamestown, or Plymouth. Active trade routes existed between those of Central and South America, and those of North America. Judging from the death tolls of 25% up to 100% in some rare cases, the diseases that traveled back north with those who traded for obsidian, turquoise, and other goods, had already devastated many populations. That the Pilgrims were so pale, and many cases, ill fr