What Foods Did the Pilgrims Eat on Thanksgiving

What foods did the pilgrims eat on Thanksgiving? You might be surprised to know how how different the first Thanksgiving dinner was from what we enjoy today. There were no cows in Plymouth, so milk and anything made with milk wasn't on the first Thanksgiving food menu. They might have had cheese made from goat's milk.

A Variety of Meats
The pilgrims and the indians had some type of fowl and venison. The pilgrims often hunted fowl for a special feast follwing the harvest. Wild turkeys are native to New England, as are pheasants. Both were enjoyed by the pilgrims and indians alike and were included in the feast. The Indians brought venison; some of the braves went hunting and brought back five deer to share. Other meats that may have been on the table include lobster, seal and swans.

The best food was placed next to the most important people. People ate what was next to them. They did not get a little bit of everything, as we do now. Foods were not served individually. The food was placed on the table, and people helped themselves to it.

Where's the Pie?
Thanksgiving today includes many vegetables available, but in the 17th century, vegetables were not always plentiful. Special meals, even the Thanksgiving meal, centered around many different kinds of meat. The pilgrims also did not have pies or other sweets. They did not have an oven to bake pies, and even though they brought sugar over on the Mayflower, it had all been used by the time of the first celebration. The Pilgrims had little in the way of grain; their only grains were Indian corn and wheat flour.

Common fruits and vegetables included pumpkin, peas, beans, radishes, carrots, onions, lettuce, plums and grapes. Walnuts, chestnuts and acorns were also plentiful. Though there was no pumpkin pie, the Pilgrims did make stewed pumpkin. They had cranberries, but no sugar, so they did not make cranberry sauce. Sweet potatoes were not common, so those were probably not on the thanksgiving table.

The first Thanksgiving feast would have looked very strange to our modern eyes, consisting mainly of corn and meat. The spirit of the celebration would be easy for us to understand, because then, as now, Thanksgiving is a reminder of the bounty of the Earth and the importance of hard work and cooperation. 

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