The First Feast Project, Part 2: America’s Very First Thanksgiving Menu

| 11/19/2015 10:08:00 AM

Tags: Thanksgiving, Native Americans, local food, holidays, turkey, Kiara Ashanti, Florida,


Read Part 1 of the First Feast series: "Tracking the First Thanksgiving Feast."

Roasted turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, honeyed ham, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and if you’re of African-American descent, collard greens, and baked macaroni and cheese. These are the primary items for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. However, the term “traditional” deserves an asterisk next to it. That’s because a good deal of the foods we associate with Thanksgiving did not make it on to the menu until well into the 20th century.          

The foods the Indians and Pilgrims ate were different from the ones most of us eat each year. The most complete sources on the menu items I found were, the Smithsonian and; a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of the first American settlers. There were few records kept at the time, but two texts are referenced by most historians.

The first is from a letter written by Edward Winslow dated December 12, 1621.

Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty. 2

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