What was eaten at the first Thanksgiving? The answer may surprise you.
No one really knows exactly how turkey became a Thanksgiving staple. While the Pilgrims probably had the now-traditional bird, it wasn’t the centerpiece of their famous meal, and those who participated in the first feast of the holiday had something much different on their plates.
The first Thanksgiving feast, which likely took place mid-October 1621, was a celebration of a bountiful harvest. The Pilgrims invited local Indians and created a great feast out of just about everything they could fish from the sea or hunt in the forest, which led to a pretty crazy menu by modern standards.
Here’s a list of seven animals the Pilgrims chowed down on at the first Thanksgiving.
The Wampanoag Indians invited by the Pilgrims killed five deer to present to the colonists, so we know venison was on the 1621 menu. If you need an excuse to go deer hunting in late November, you can claim it’s for a historically-accurate meal.
3. Heath Hen
This grouse was very common in the Plymouth area, which means it’s very likely they were among the birds that were described being present at the meal. They were plentiful and fed on the ground, making them relatively easy to catch and kill, a quality that unfortunately led to their species’ disappearance. So, sorry, can’t replicate this one for your Thanksgiving feast ever again.
Yes, according to some sources, despite Thanksgiving being an American legend, the national bird-to-be was eaten by the Pilgrims. Try that at your family’s meal today and you could be looking at jail time for your unpatriotic hunger. Still, one can’t help but wonder what they taste like…
7. Atlantic Cod
If you really want to have an extra delicious Thanksgiving meal, and stay more true to the historical records, try adding one or more of these to your green beans, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.