Was the First Thanksgiving Anything Like Thanksgiving? In 1621 the first Pilgrims in North America celebrated a successful harvest with their Wampanoag Native American neighbors, who had helped the fledgling colony survive a difficult first year. This three-day harvest festival was the first ever Thanksgiving, now an annual American holiday. But how many of the dishes we consider traditional were actually eaten at the First Thanksgiving? What Was In: Turkey, Red Meat and Seafood Turkey is the one food that is an absolute must at every Thanksgiving table...today. Was it eaten at the First Thanksgiving? Chances are good that it was. The colonists sent out hunting party to get “fowl” for the big event, and wild turkeys were easy to find in New England at the time. But so were geese, ducks and smaller game birds—any of which could have been the bounty the hunters brought back. Turkey likely became a regular tradition only later, as the bird was domesticated. Other meat was plentiful too, however. The Wampanoag brought five entire deer for the meal, which could have been slow roasted for a great central dish. Seafood, especially mussels gathered from the shoreline, would also have been a major part of the meal. What Was Out: Stuffing, Pies and Cranberry Sauce There are some Thanksgiving classics that the Pilgrims couldn’t have made at all. For example, they had brought a limited amount of sugar with them from England, meaning they couldn’t sweeten cranberries into jelly or sauce, nor make much in the way of pies. They had also been unable to build a baking oven, so aside from pies they also had no bread to speak of, meaning no stuffing for the birds (turkey or otherwise). Nuts and savory herbs may have been put in the birds instead. Side Dishes Potatoes were decidedly not a staple of the English diet by 1621 and certainly hadn’t made it to Plymouth Rock. But other side dishes were abundant. Corn was ground into a corn meal that could be served as a gruel or formed into a polenta-like substance. Onions, spinach, cabbage, nuts, beans, carrots and peas provided ample ingredients for a variety of dishes. Thanksgiving Today
At Saint Germain Catering we’re proud to arrange fabulous Thanksgiving dinners every year. We offer tasteful ways to add historical flare to your big turkey dinner: • Including creamy or broth-based seafood soups such as clam chowder or shellfish stew. • Using wild game turkey instead of domestic turkey for bolder flavor. • Serving mussels as an appetizer. As an experienced event caterer and business caterer, Saint Germain is happy to bring any Thanksgiving event to life in Virginia or Maryland!