The First Thanksgiving Tables

We all know the dishes that can be found a modern Thanksgiving table: turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and other hearty fare. Back in 1621, however, when the Pilgrims held the first Thanksgiving, the cuisine was a bit different. According to first-hand accounts from Pilgrims Edward Winslow and William Bradford, the first American Thanksgiving included the following dishes:

• Venison
• Bass, cod, and other fish
• Fowl
• Lobster
• Corn
• Dried fruits
• Eggs

The first American Thanksgiving dinner also lasted three days and included no women; it was held as a political conference to forge an alliance between the Pilgrims and the Indians. According to writer Andrew Beahrs, the Pilgrims even put on a show of arms in the middle of the meal by discharging their muskets in a military fashion.

The first Canadian Thanksgiving, which occurred in Newfoundland some forty-two years before the Pilgrims had their famous gathering, was held to welcome one Martin Frobisher to the New World after he managed to safely navigate the Northwest Passage. Little is known about the contents of the table at the first Canadian Thanksgiving, but they may have had an effect on forming today’s Canadian Thanksgiving fare, which includes the following dishes:

• Baked sweet potatoes
• Roast turkey
• Bread-and-celery stuffing
• Mincemeat
• Beet soup
• Cranapple Relish
• Spicy pumpkin pie


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