As those of us in the U.S. prepare for Thanksgiving, it is sobering to think about with the Pilgrims may have eaten versus the feasts we prepare. Likely, the Pilgrims roasted plentiful seasonal root vegetables right over the cooking fire with the meat. Okay, that might be a stretch, but think about preparing vegetables that are in season in your area.
The History Channel, in conjunction with food historians, put together the following list of food that was likely on the menu in 1621, at the first Thanksgiving:
Seafood: Cod, Eel, Clams, Lobster
Wild Fowl: Wild Turkey, Goose, Duck, Crane, Swan, Partridge, Eagles
Meat: Venison, Seal
Grain: Wheat Flour, Indian Corn
Vegetables: Pumpkin, Peas, Beans, Onions, Lettuce, Radishes, Carrots
Fruit: Plums, Grapes
Nuts: Walnuts, Chestnuts, Acorns
Herbs and Seasonings: Olive Oil, Liverwort, Leeks, Dried Currants, Parsnips
The following foods, all considered staples of the modern Thanksgiving meal, didn’t appear on the pilgrims’s first feast table:
Ham: There is no evidence that the colonists had butchered a pig by this time, though they had brought pigs with them from England.
Sweet Potatoes/Potatoes: These were not common.
Corn on the Cob: Corn was kept dried out at this time of year.
Cranberry Sauce: The colonists had cranberries but no sugar at this time.
Pumpkin Pie: It’s not a recipe that exists at this point, though the pilgrims had recipes for stewed pumpkin.
Chicken/Eggs: We know that the colonists brought hens with them from England, but it’s unknown how many they had left at this point or whether the hens were still laying.
Milk: No cows had been aboard the Mayflower, though it’s possible that the colonists used goat milk to make cheese.
Also, after the meal as you find comfort on the couch while watching football, it is important to remember between meals, the Pilgrims and Wampanoag played games. In other words, remember to have gratitude for your health and move it!