For nearly 400 years, Americans have been gathering around tables, cooking for hours and stuffing their faces in late November — all in the name of giving thanks. Tradition dictates that there must be turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, but what did the Pilgrims and Native Americans really eat on this day in 1621? National Geographic has drummed up some evidence-based guesses.
According to letters from colonial leaders that were collected and researched by author Nathaniel Philbrick, the first feast most likely included goose, duck, venison, fish, lobster and mussels, stew, beer, cornbread, boiled or roasted squash and pumpkin, and — you know it — turkey. Apparently, all of these crops and animals were plentiful in the area of Plymouth, Massachusetts, at the time, which forms the basis for Philbrick’s hypothesis.
Philbrick also reveals that the Native Americans brought five deer to the feast, which should tell you why the process of giving thanks took three days to complete back in the early 17th century.
So there wasn’t a pecan or pumpkin pie, and both cranberry sauce and gravy were absent at the first table, but we can all agree that the first Thanksgiving sounds pretty delicious. Now can we start bringing venison back as traditional Thanksgiving grub?