The Thanksgiving Feast

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The Pilgrims: Voyage to Freedom

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How did the different foods we eat on Thanksgiving become official? Here's what we know:
  • No one is really sure why the turkey became the official meat of Thanksgiving. A book written by William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Colony (Pilgrims), mentions wild turkeys but doesn't say they were eaten in fall harvest feasts.
  • Corn was kept dried out in the late fall/early winter. The Pilgrims probably didn't eat, on the cob or off.
  • Sweet potatoes were not common at all in New England. And regular potatoes, well, they weren't commonly available either.
  • Pumpkin pie as a recipe didn't exist, and they didn't have ovens anyway. But the Pilgrims did make a sort of pumpkin stew.
  • Cranberry sauce wasn't a possibility, although the Pilgrims had cranberries, because they didn't have sugar.

We do know that the people who ate these thanksgiving feasts didn't eat in stages, or courses, as many people do now. They simply put all the food on the table and ate whatever they wanted first, then second, then last. And the more important you were, the more food you got set down near you.

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David White