Kathleen Wall is the Colonial Foodways Culinarian at Plimoth Plantation. Kathleen’s role is to train the staff in 17th-century foodways. Along with planning and delivering public programs for the plantation’s visitors, she also blogs about colonial food in “Pilgrim Seasonings,” on the Plimoth Plantation’s website.
SD: Did the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians really share the “first Thanksgiving” together?
KW: Yes, they celebrated with three days of eating. At that time, it was not called Thanksgiving. The original published description of this celebration was lost and was not rediscovered until around 1820 by Reverend Alexander Young. In his footnotes, he wrote “This was the first Thanksgiving, the harvest festival of New England. On this occasion, they no doubt feasted on the wild turkey as well as venison.”
SD: Is the food we eat today similar to what the Pilgrims would have served in 1621?
KW: Yes and no. It had more of a Wampanoag slant. There was a range of wild birds (geese, ducks and passenger pigeons), venison, turnips, and corn. Unfortunately, no mashed potatoes. In attendance, there were 50 colonists and about 90 Wampanoag men. I can’t even image the amount of food that would have been prepared for this celebration.
SD: Did the Wampanoag Indians contribute any food to the celebration?
KW: We do know that they provided five deer. They may have also provided shellfish, grapes, wild chestnuts, and walnuts.
SD: The most popular Thanksgiving pies today are apple and pumpkin. Are these the same that the Pilgrims would have made?
KW: The English have a long tradition of apple pies, but there were no apples pies at the “first Thanksgiving.” No orchards of any kind at the time, so no apples. The earliest European recipes for pumpkin pie do not appear until the 17th century.
SD: Do you have a favorite dish to serve for Thanksgiving dinner?
KW: It’s lasagna! My mom is from Italy, so growing up we always had something Italian on the table. Nothing says the holidays like a pasta dish.
For more information on the Pilgrims and Plimoth Planatation visit www.plimoth.org.