Food News

The First Thanksgiving: A Look at the Menu

When you sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner in two days, you'll probably be sitting down to a meal that includes what we've come to view as holiday classics: turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, a few pies (pumpkin, pecan, apple). But how close is this to the menu at the so-called first Thanksgiving?

According to the Smithsonian, there are some similarities, but definite omissions. The only surviving primary sources that reference the meal shared by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony in 1621 confirm that "wildfowl" was there, in addition to corn (in grain form for bread or for porridge), and venison.

Beyond that, though, the menu is a little murky. Kathleen Wall, a foodways culinarian at Plimoth Plantation, suspects that goose or duck was a more likely choice over wild turkey, with swan and passenger pigeons also making an appearance! And don't expect bread stuffing: the birds would have been stuffed with onions and herbs, as was the custom of the Pilgrims then.

Additionally, there likely would have been eels and shellfish, including lobster, clams and mussels. And pies? Well, if there were any, they would have been meat pies (no sweet pastry pies!) and definitely no cranberry sauce. (It'd be another 50 years before cranberry sauce becomes a staple accompaniment to meat.)

→ Read More: What Was on the Menu at the First Thanksgiving? at Smithsonian

Related: Thanksgiving at the White House: The First Family's Food Requests Throughout History

(Image: Bettmann / Corbis via Smithsonian)