Thanksgiving Then And Now


Emily Sackley, Staff Writer

Thanksgiving has been a tradition for nearly 400 years! The first Thanksgiving dates back all the way to 1621. This was when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered at Plymouth, and had an autumn feast, in order to make peace.

They celebrated all they were grateful for. When we think of a traditional Thanksgiving meal, we usually think of a giant stuffed turkey, cranberries, veggies, those fluffy mashed potatoes, and a warm, spiced pumpkin pie. Shockingly, these foods didn’t appear on the menu for Thanksgiving until later in this holiday’s history.

Records and first person accounts show that Plymouth county’s governor, William Bradford, sent four men on a mission to hunt a wild bird for the famous event we now call Thanksgiving. We know that the colonists from this time period usually consumed birds such as ducks, geese, and swans, rather than turkeys.

Also, their stuffing most likely contained herbs, onions, and nuts to give an extra burst of flavor. Even without the now – traditional turkey, the Pilgrims and Indians still had plenty of meat. Apparently, the Wampanoag guests arrived with five deer as an offering!

There was a plentiful harvest that first year, so a few veggies on the menu likely included onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, carrots, corn, and peas. This isn’t too different from the assortment of vegetables at a common Thanksgiving table these days. Fruits that were likely included were blueberries, plums, gooseberries, grapes, raspberries, and cranberries.

Neither mashed, nor roasted, neither white, nor sweet potatoes had a place at the first Thanksgiving. Now, they are a staple in the meal we all expect. Potatoes were introduced to the Europeans around 1570. However, by the time the Pilgrims embarked on their journey on the Mayflower, potatoes simply weren’t popular enough to double back to North America, nor were they popular enough with the English to make the journey.

Contrary to the potatoes, pumpkins and squash were always a quite popular dish. However, butter and wheat flour were lacking in order to make the flaky crust. Moreover, baking ovens were a tool that hadn’t yet been invented. The English were creative, in the fact that they improvised a pie crust by hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey, and spices to make a custard. Believe it or not, they then roasted the gourds in hot ashes.

So, whether you sit down to a traditional Thanksgiving feast, or your family has created their own traditions, the one thing that has never changed is the fact that this is a day that we should all be thankful for everything we have.

Happy Thanksgiving!