Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Would You Like a Side of Acorns with that Seal?

We know that sometime after the harvest of 1621 the Plymouth colonists shared a feast with their native neighbors. Although we don't know what they did eat, we have a good idea of what was not included on the menu. Surprisingly, some foods that we consider Thanksgiving staples did not appear on the original groaning board.

Ham, for example. Although the colonists had brought pigs with them from England, there's no evidence that they had butchered a hog at this point. They probably did eat wild turkey, goose, venison, or grouse; it's just as likely that the first Thanksgiving included some fatty and nutritious seal, which at the time was plentiful in the waters surrounding Cape Cod.

Although cranberries might have appeared on the table, the colonists lacked sugar, so their wild turkey was not adorned with cranberry sauce. There's little doubt corn was part of the meal, but it would have been dried corn at this time of the year. The season for fresh corn had ended before the harvest.

Neither sweet potatoes or potatoes were common in New England at this point in time, so if you're planning a historically accurate Thanksgiving you can leave these off the menu. The residents of Plymouth Plantation certainly had no notion of the marshmallow and, remember, no sugar, so candied sweet potatoes would have been as foreign a concept to them as General Foods International Coffee.

It goes without saying that not even Squanto possessed a ready supply of french cut green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and Durkee dried onion rings, doesn't it?

Finally, historians have uncovered no evidence of a Puritan recipe for pumpkin pie. In fact, the colonists not only lacked sugar, they lacked milk; no cows made the crossing on the Mayflower. Pumpkin would have made an appearance at the feast, maybe even stewed pumpkin, but no pumpkin pie.

Enjoy whatever you've decided to cook tomorrow. Rejoice in the fact that you're not huddled around a fire pit eating seal and are instead quaffing quantities of beer glued to the illuminated box of football. Plus ca change...

1 comment:

tunsie said...

I have the traditional thanksgiving dinner because I eat dinner with x amount of my friends.the dinner is comprised of roasted turkey,sweet potatos,cranberry sauce,vegetables,pumpkin pie.BUT when I had dinner with my parents the dinner was roasted cornish hens,baked ham,roasted sweet potato,salad,grilled chicken,grilled beef,hummous,vegetables galore.my girlfriend had ham,green been casserole,cos she doesn't eat turkey.tunsie.tunsie.tunsie