Today Americans eat turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, but in November 1621 when the Pilgrims met with the Wampanoag tribe for an autumn harvest feast (what we now consider the first Thanksgiving), the menu looked a little different.
The biggest question: Was there turkey at the first Thanksgiving? Well, maybe. William Bradford, the governor of the colony, mentioned wild turkeys in the area, and Edward Winslow wrote of a “fowling” mission, but those hunters may have come back with other birds. Goose or duck was most likely the bird of choice for dinner, historians say. As far as other meats, the Pilgrims and Native Americans also likely ate venison, eels, lobster and other shellfish.
It’s possible stuffing was on the menu as well, but it wasn’t the stuffing we eat today. Historians say the Pilgrims likely stuffed birds with onions and herbs, not bread.
There were also plenty of fruits and vegetables on the menu, thanks to the Native Americans’ proficiency at growing and harvesting crops. Historians suspect the Pilgrims and Wampanoag dined on onions, beans, lettuce, turnips, spinach, cabbage, carrots and corn, as well as plums, grapes and various types of berries -- yes, including cranberries (though they weren’t served in the shape of an aluminum can).
What foods definitely weren't served at the first Thanksgiving? You wouldn’t have seen any type of potatoes on the menu, as the food hadn’t reached popularity in North America just yet. And while there was plenty of access to pumpkins and other squashes in New England, the Pilgrims and Wampanoag didn’t serve up pumpkin pies for dessert, as they didn’t have access to butter and flour for the pie crusts.