What Did They Really Eat At The 1st Thanksgiving?

Well, it wasn’t pumpkin pie with whipped cream…

Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration! Maybe you even had a chance to share some of the new things you’ve been learning about the Pilgrims with your family. I’m going to keep this blog post short ‘n sweet today since you might be rushing around to get a Black Friday deal.

I always wondered what did the Pilgrims and their Native American friends really eat at the First Thanksgiving? We can’t know exactly, for-certain-sure because the folks who were there didn’t write it down. But looking at the foods of the era and what was available in the Cape Cod area we can make a few guesses.

During a living history presentation (2005), Sarah shows the typical eating utensils that would've been used by the Pilgrims.
During a living history presentation (2005), Sarah shows the typical eating utensils that would’ve been used by the Pilgrims – trencher, knife, spoon, and large napkin.

I particularly like the suggested menu from “The Thanksgiving Primer” which was published by Plimoth Plantation Publications in 1987. Notice how many fresh vegetables there are!

A Possible 1621 Menu (with Annotation by Yours Truly)

Olives, black & green (brought from the Old World)


Bread of Indian Corn (the long way of saying “cornbread” – this would’ve been completely New World cuisine)

Cheate Bread (bread made using a sourdough starter)

Seethed Fish (“seeth” means boiled according to a 1594 cookbook)

Roast Venison (Chief Massasoit sent his men deer hunting; so it’s safe to assume there was venison on the menu)

Roast Fowl Served Up With A Sauce (maybe turkey, maybe duck?)

Boiled Sallet (this means a “boiled salad” – yep, boiled spinach and lettuce, according to a 1591 cookbook. I bet the kids would’ve loved that yesterday! Just joking…)

Dish of Jerusalem Artichokes

Boiled Onions

Standing Dish of Pompions (stewed pumpkin…not flavored with sugar and spices)

Furmenty (kind of like a rice pudding, but made with wheat)

Prune Tart (hmm…what to do with dried plums…or maybe not…)

Wine, Beer, Cider (keep in mind that water was filthy in the Old World; the Pilgrims would’ve been used to mixing a little wine, beer, or cider with their water for a cleansing effect.)

Some year…

Okay, this might sound a little silly, but on my historical “try-this” bucket list, I want to cook a traditional 1621 Feast and serve it on Thanksgiving. It would be unique, a little “non-traditional”, but I think it would so fun! Maybe someday…

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. So what do you think? Want to try a 1621 Feast next year or will you be staying with the modern traditions?



  1. […] William Bradford’s record of the harvest and Edward Winslow’s account of the celebration are a foundation for our understanding of the “First Thanksgiving.” Perhaps the details aren’t all that we’d like to know about the event, but they give us a foundation to explore. Taking these primary sources and learning from other historical accounts, English societal norms, the Separatists’ religious beliefs, and the cultures and customs in the New World, historians have been able to discover more about probable details surrounding the 1621 Thanksgiving. […]

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