Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The First Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving focuses my thoughts on food and the first holiday feast. I am not cooking dinner this year, but will be making a couple of dishes to take to our family banquet.
We are members of a CSA – Community Supported Agricultural group. Every week we receive a box of fresh herbs and vegetables. The assortment varies as the season’s progress from spring to summer and fall. We opted for an extended program, and will get veggies until mid-December. This week’s delivery brings broccoli and cabbage, among other fall greens. Consequently I am preparing a broccoli casserole and cole slaw.
Most family dinners will have some food in common with the First Thanksgiving feast celebrated by the 53 Pilgrims lucky enough to survive the winter, but not a lot and prepared very differently. A detailed menu for that first three-day feast is not found in any contemporary account, but some of the foods eaten by the first Pilgrims are mentioned in existing records. The menu probably looked something like this:
                Seasonal Fowl (ducks, geese, venison, possibly wild turkey).
                Possibly fresh seafood, perhaps oysters which the Indians would have supplied.
                Stuffing of herbs, onions, and oats.
                Indian corn, processed and prepared in dishes similar to rice or oats such as porridge and pancakes.
                Various dried and fresh vegetables, including: parsnips, collards, carrots, turnips, spinach, cabbage, onions, and beans. They would have been seasoned with fresh or dried herbs: thyme, marjoram, sage, parsley.
                Fresh and dried fruits: pumpkin, cranberries, grapes, nuts.
There were no potatoes, no sugar, no pumpkin pie, and no cranberry sauce.
The commercial turkeys of today bear no resemblance to the wild turkeys the Indians and Pilgrims enjoyed, but that is another story…