November has arrived once again, and that means that we take a few days off from coordinating online food safety training and administering certified food manager exams to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families and loved ones. But before we sit down to our turkey and stuffing, our sweet potatoes with marshmallows, our cranberry sauce and our pumpkin pie, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the feast the Pilgrims celebrated back in 1621.
Food Safety Training and the History of Thanksgiving
The menu for our traditional Thanksgiving has been passed down from generation to generation without fail, but many of us would be surprised as to just how different the menu was on that very first Thanksgiving Day. In fact, our current Thanksgiving menu differs greatly with the food consumed by the Pilgrims and the local Wampanoag tribe during their harvest celebration.
While wild turkeys were plentiful in 1600’s New England, the only proteins mentioned in the writings of the Pilgrim’s chronicler are five deer that were gifted to the settlers by their Wampanoag guests. According to historians, some of the other proteins the Pilgrims may have consumed included:
• Wild birds such as geese and swans
• Mussels and clams
• Eel and other native fish
In fact, some experts claim that the settlers subsisted on a diet high in the easily harvested mussels and other shellfish that could be obtained without expending the excess energy and resources that game hunting would require.
If turkey wasn’t the main course of the first Thanksgiving, can we still count on them serving stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie on the side? At this point of the Pilgrims adventure, they had yet had the time to plant and harvest grain, and they had been too long out of England for any flour to remain to make stuffing or even pie crusts for traditional pumpkin pies. Cranberries were plentiful in the region, but without a source of sugar they were hardly consumed due to the incredibly tart taste. Squash such as pumpkins were available, but they were more than likely roasted over the coals of a fire and eaten with nuts and local berries.
Whether you serve the traditional turkey and pumpkin pie, or roasted eel and baked mussels, we’d like to wish you and yours the best this Thanksgiving season. Do you serve any dishes that defy Thanksgiving traditions? We’d like to hear about your experiences in the comments section below.