What Did the First Thanksgiving Meal Look Like? Probably Not What You Think

This time next week, we’ll probably all be emerging from our blissful Turkey Day food comas — but it’s probably worth noting that whatever we’ll be pigging out on, it’s not what the pilgrims ate. The first Thanksgiving meal in 1621 actually bore little to no resemblance to what we tend to put on the table today. Uh... whoops?

We looked briefly at the myth of the Thanksgiving Day turkey earlier in November in our examination of Thanksgiving “facts” that actually aren’t true; the Guardian’s Food section, however, recently delved into the whole “what did the first Thanksgiving meal consist of?” question in a little more depth. Not only that, but they also assembled all of their findings into a snazzy little video — and who doesn’t love a video? No one, that’s who, especially when it’s under two minutes and packed full of fun trivia. So before you start dressing your turkey (or spatchcocking it, as the case may be), mixing up your cranberry sauce, and mashing your potatoes, why not take a look at how much Thanksgiving dinner has changed over the centuries?

Here’s the general gist of it in nine pictures; scroll down to watch the whole video.

You’re Probably Used to Thanksgiving Dinner Looking Like This:

Maybe with some of this on the side:

But Did the First Thanksgiving Look Like That?

Nope. According to Guardian Food, the only written account we have of the first Thanksgiving in 1621 says that they ate five deer and some birds. What birds? We're not totally sure, but they were probably swans or ducks. Wild turkey were more difficult to find. They were also likely boiled or roasted over a spit, rather than roasted in an oven.

Here’s What Else Might Have Been on the Menu:

Shellfish were plentiful, so hoorah for that.

Carrots, squash, and other local produce also probably made it onto the table.

Cranberries existed, too, although they probably weren’t made into the sweet relish we know and love; sugar was much harder to come by.

What About Potatoes?

Not so much — they hadn’t really made their way out of South America yet.

And Stuffing?

Yes to stuffing, but it was likely made from nuts and a few onions instead of croutons or cornbread.

Overall, It Probably Looked Something Like This:

Voila! A real “traditional” Thanksgiving.

Watch the whole video here:

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Images: iandavid/Flickr; GuardianFood/YouTube (9)

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