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