I don't even have to wonder what the first Thanksgiving feast was like. Guinea Pig Diaries author A.J. Jacobs has found out for us! It had no factory-processed turkeys, and was probably held in September or October. And the Wampanoag came on their own. And instead of sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, there were turnips, deer, lobster and eel, as Jacobs notes:
The lobster, boiled in red-wine vinegar, was a big hit. Although our lobsters are shrimpy compared to those of 1621, when the crustaceans commonly weighed 20 pounds and had claws the size of a human arm.Why does strike me as fodder for his next book?
As for deer, a friend had venison in his freezer. (Bonus: He’s a descendant of Miles Standish!) We cooked it in a stew thickened with ground walnuts to mixed reviews. Next up were grits, turnips and a boiled salad (yes, boiled) of spinach and currants.
We saved the eel for last, boiled in white wine and sprinkled with fennel seed. But maybe I should have called the Butterball Eel Hotline, because it was downright nasty—a mix of rubbery eel flesh and hard bone. As my friend Shannon said, “My gag reflex is getting quite a workout.”
This can only help me in my next Food Ethnography post, which will have something to do with the first Thanksgiving - either what the Pilgrims ate or what the indigenous peoples of Eastern North America were already eating before that.