The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 and lasted for three days. After sustaining major losses, the fate smiled on the Pilgrims by giving them favorable weather and two helpers, members of Native American tribes who could surprisingly speak English. One of them was named Squanto. A couple of years earlier he was captured and taken to England. However, later on he was released and managed to return home.
The feast was a celebration of the successful harvest, during which Pilgrim and Native American hunters brought fish, game and the gifts of the harvest together. The types of food that were served on the tables at that feast were quite different from the ones we serve today. Have a look at the top 10 foods at the first Thanksgiving.
Seemingly the favorite type of food of Edward Winslow, deer meat was present on the table at the first Thanksgiving. Five deer were killed for the celebrations by the Wampanoag. Venison was quite a common type of food in the 1600s, but today you have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to have a taste at special restaurants. You could also try your luck at some mountain resorts.
The feast also included several types of seafood: the cod fish, clams, oysters and bass. The white meat of the cod was highly valued, even though the Pilgrims were not very skilled fishermen. However, Squanto taught them how to fish, as well as use parts of the fish as fertilizers for the plantations of corn.
3. Wild Fowl
Instead of the popular turkey we have nowadays, people ate geese and ducks during the first Thanksgiving. These types of birds had larger populations during autumn. However, swans and a type of extinct pigeon called Passenger Pigeon, might have been on the menu as well. Furthermore, smaller birds were far easier to cook back in the day, as they could be spit roasted. A turkey would have had to be boiled before stuffing, and that would pose difficulties back in the 1600s.
While it is true that pumpkins were present at the first Thanksgiving, they seem to have been used as pots rather than eaten by the Pilgrims. They scooped out the pumpkin filling and filled the carcass with various ingredients such as eggs. Afterward they cooked the pumpkin until its shell got black, and ate only the filling.
Pilgrims preferred the so-called Indian Corn to the English one, because it grew better on the plains. They planted the maize during spring with fertilisers taken from fish, and it dried out before November. Thus it is most likely that the Pilgrims used to cook the maize into bread or to make it into a meal.
Samp is very similar to English porridge, being a combination of milk and corn. During the first Thanksgiving, it is possible that samp was used either as a side dish or as a full meal. According to the “Two Voyages to New England” book by John Josselyn, which was written in 1600, the corn was ground to become flour and then placed in a mixture of water and milk. Finally, the result was boiled.
Hardtack was a type of biscuit which was often eaten in places without good lightning. Why so? Well, this type of food which was quite popular during the Civil War was a perfect habitat for all sorts of bugs and maggots. As a result, people ate them in the dark so they wouldn’t see the disgusting creatures. They also dipped the hardstack into liquid to make them softer and to kill the maggots.
Edward Winslow was also impressed by the lobsters served at the first Thanksgiving, as he sent a letter in 1622 to England which detailed the feast. As the Pilgrims were also taught how to fish and cook the creature, the popularity of this type of food grew tremendously and was one of the factors that changed the Feast of Harvest into Thanksgiving.
9. Dried Fruit
Fruits were the snacks of the Pilgrims. Taking into consideration the fact that there were no refrigerators in the 1600s, the only sensible solution to keep the fruits for a longer time was to dry them. The process was done primarily inside shelters, in order to avoid flies. One of the delicacies at the time were the raisins.
The eel is an important piece of the history of Thanksgiving. The leader of the tribe named Massosoit made peace with the Pilgrims over an eel feast. Squanto also taught the Pilgrims how to catch the slippery fish with a spear.