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The First Thanksgiving Turkey May Have Been a Duck

Everyone, basically, knows the story of the first Thanksgiving.  But do you know what was on the menu?  You'd be quite surprised, I assure you.

From the archives of the Westchester County Historical Society, we have what is believed to be on the menu during that first Thanksgiving back in 1621.

"Stewed eels, cod (baked or broiled), fowl served with a 'pudding in the belly,' corn pudding, venizon, stewed pumpkin, and 'sallet herbs dressed in oyle.'"  Doesn't that taste yummy?

The article goes on to say that pumpkins became a mainstay in the diet of the earliest New Englanders during the 17th century.  They were usually served stewed, but they were also baked, made into puddings, and even used as a sauce for meat or fowl.

Cranberries were one of the native fruits to greet the Pilgrims upon their arrival in the New World.  The Wampanoag Indians introduced the settlers to the vitamin-rich berries, but it would be many years before they assumed their current status as an indispensable condiment on the holiday table.  The reason?  Cranberries were tart, and sugar was too expensive

Now, this may come as a shock to you, but, the pilgrims may not have been digging into a turkey as part of their Thanksgiving meal.  Geese and ducks were also possible main entrees on their table.

The first thanksgiving was not an observance of thanks.  It was more of a harvest festival or celebration, but food has always been central to this most festive of American holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


William Joseph Reynolds, longtime Ossining resident, is a recognized presidential historian. He has lectured on presidential history to schools, colleges and civic organizations throughout Westchester and Putnam Counties. His articles have appeared in The Gazette and The North County News, and he served as editor of Here At Home magazine, which covered Ossining, Cortlandt, Croton, Briarcliff Manor, Verplanck and Buchanan.

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