November 08, 2006

Pass the Eel, Deer and Cake!

Snapshots In My Time...
Of My Time.....Hauntings.

"Pass the deer and eel please!" Are these words you would expect to hear around your Thanksgiving dinner table?

When most people think of a traditional U.S. Thanksgiving dinner, they think of turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and maybe apple pie. The original American Thanksgiving dinner in 1621, however, was very different. In the fall of 1621, 52 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans came together in Plymouth, Massachusetts, for meals celebrating the harvest. Although Thanksgiving did not become an official holiday until 1863, most Americans consider the Plymouth feast as the first Thanksgiving.

The food that these early Americans shared was not what most people would expect. Pilgrims and Native Americans probably ate turkey. Mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and apple pie, however, were not on the menu. In 1621, potatoes were not part of the Pilgrims' diet. Potatoes grew only in South America until the late 1600s.

The Pilgrims and Native Americans may have eaten cranberries, but certainly not cranberry sauce. Sugar, an important ingredient in cranberry sauce, had probably not yet traveled to the New World. But the Pilgrims must have eaten apple pie? Surprisingly, they did not. Apples do not naturally grow in North America. The fruit didn't come to the United States until years later.

So what, then, did people eat at the first Thanksgiving? The meals and festivities lasted for three days. During that time, the early Americans ate a lot of food. They probably had deer, clams, dried berries, corn, wild turkeys, and fish such as cod, sea bass, and eels. And the meat did not come in packages from the grocery store.

Animals were often cooked with heads and feet still attached. The 'humbles' (what we would call guts) were cooked and eaten as well. This Thanksgiving, as you dig in, be thankful you're eating turkey and pie—and not baked guts!

Thank goodness these days we haveThanksgiving Treats. I would hate to remember a Thanksgiving only by the memory of the best deer head or eel head I ever had. Now cake! That is something else. We do tend to remember special desserts we have at special occassions. I know I do. This year I might try out something new. You might too. This eggnog cake seems just the thing. Eggnog signifies the holidays to me. The brandy pumpkin cake looks divine. These cakes would be great for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas.

I am sorry that the original pilgrims only had deer, eel and innards to eat. I know they would pass that all up for cake.


  1. Hey nice post....pretty informative. Got to know a lot regarding the history. And all of us should be aware of the history behind one of our most loved celebration. And hey you can also check out my Thanksgiving Blog and find more related and useful resources. Visit soon and have a great Thanksgiving!!!