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General NewsA Pilgrim Thanksgiving

November 1, 2016

Plimoth Plantation 1627 Village

Plimoth Plantation 1627 Village

One-hundred and two Pilgrims sailed to the New World. They arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 16, 1620. In fall, 1621, fifty-two celebrated the first Thanksgiving. Today we enjoy turkey, dressing, potatoes, and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, but what did those first settlers eat?

The Pilgrims probably had wild turkey. A journal from 1621 says “Governor William Bradford sent men out to hunt fowl (birds).” They probably also killed ducks, geese, swans, and pigeons. The pilgrims did not have bread to make a dressing for the cooked birds, so they could use nuts to flavor the meat.

The Pilgrims also served venison (deer). Their guests, the Wampanoag Indians, brought five deer and the Pilgrims cooked the meat on sticks (spits) over a fire.

The Wampanoag Indians taught the Pilgrims how to grow vegetables. They probably had onions, lettuce, beans, spinach, cabbage, and carrots. However, the most important vegetable was corn. The Pilgrims used corn to make porridge. They did not have potatoes.

Both the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag ate native squash and pumpkins. However, the Pilgrims lacked the wheat flour and butter for a pie crust, and they did not have an oven to bake pie. Perhaps they had blueberries, raspberries, or grapes for dessert.

The first Thanksgiving is 395 years old, but the food was fresh, local, and healthy.

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Published November 2016

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