Hey Pilgrim, Let's Party Like It's 1621

Does our contemporary Thanksgiving menu bear any resemblance to the original?

The first Thanksgiving feast was launched by the Pilgrims in the autumn of 1621 to celebrate having made it through their first winter and a summer growing season helped along by their friends in the Wompanoag tribe. But does our contemporary Thanksgiving dinner have any connection to that first celebration?

Any meat at the meal had to be shot or caught. No turkeys with built-in pop up timers. But there was probably duck and perhaps goose and wild turkey. The Wompanoag would have contributed venison, a favored meat of the tribe. And eel and other seafood would have rounded out the main courses.

For side dishes -- you wouldn't be asking anyone to pass the stuffing or mashed potatoes. No sweet potatoes either. There likely would have been native fruits like plums, melons, grapes, and cranberries, plus local vegetables such as leeks, wild onions, beans, Jerusalem artichokes, and stewed squash. Crops from England might also have been served -- turnips, parsnips, cabbage, carrots, parsley and sage. There is no specific record of the menu for this three-day feast beyond the mention of wild fowl, deer, fish and seafood.

I'm suddenly hungry for some stuffing and sweet potatoes. Our Chef Jessica Gaydos, who could have brought some savory civility to the first Thanksgiving, is going to rustle up some unique side dishes this Saturday at our cooking demo Sideways. Recipes include Butternut Squash and Wild Mushroom Gratin, Edamame Succotash, Sauteed Chard with Golden Raisins and Pumpernickel and Pistachio Stuffing. Yum!

You're invited. Details here.

Written by Chris on November 4, 2011

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