Thursday, November 26, 2009
The Pilgrims' Menu
As someone not fond of turkey I am attracted to the story that the Plymouth Separatists (a.k.a. Pilgrims) did not consume turkey during their first thanksgiving feast. However, after a little source reading I'm inclined to think they probably did. William Bradford, in Of Plymouth Plantation, said nothing about the "first Thanksgiving," but noted that after their first harvest (Fall, 1621) the Plymouth settlers had a "good store" of cod and other fish, ample wild water fowl, a fair amount of cornmeal, and "great store of wild Turkies." So, yes, the Pilgrims probably did eat turkey at their first harvest feast, along with duck, cod, and cornbread.
There was no cranberry sauce, though - they didn't know cranberries were edible. It would have been handy if they did, since so many of them had died of scurvy the previous winter.
For more Thanksgiving myth-debunking, see this classic article from the History News Network.
(My thanks to Elena O'Malley for asking me this question several months ago, thus inspiring me to do the research well in advance of the holiday.)