Thanksgiving is a holiday that is definitely known specifically for the family feast. Loved ones gathered around the table to share a huge meal. Some of the dishes that will be on most tables are: Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Green Bean Casserole, Cranberry jelly/sauce, Dinner Rolls, and the most famous Turkey. This menu seems to have been written in stone as the traditional dishes pass the test of time. However, when looking at the 1st Thanksgiving in 1621 tools (i.e. an oven) or resources (grains, modern vegetables, or sugar) were not present.
So, when the Wampanoag tribe was teaching the Pilgrims how to survive on the land, what did they use for the peace offering dinner we now know as Thanksgiving? There were only 2 surviving documents, but enough to give us a hint at what the feast looked like. The Smithsonian Magazine shared that William Bradford, the Governor, who attended the first Thanksgiving, wrote:
“And besides waterfowl there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion."
While William Bradford DID mention turkeys,
agricultural historians are not confident this is the fowl of choice. Due to what would be more common in the Plymouth area, they believe goose, duck, and passenger pigeon would be a better option. The cooking method was to boil and then roast. Small fowl were stuffed with onions, nuts, and herbs. Other meats were fish, eel, shellfish, and venison (deer).
As stated earlier, the Wampanoag tribe took their time to show what American soil was able to grow. This included peas, beans, and squash. Corn played a great part, and was probably served as Sofkey, a corn porridge. Although there was no flour to make pie, there was an abundance of pumpkins that were eaten as stew and the pumpkin shell was used as a bowl.
While pie was not a thing the first Thanksgiving had, because of the region, it doesn't mean that there wasn't a possibility of having Pumpkin pie in 1621. While doing the research to write this blog, we found a video that describes the history of 'Pumpion Pie' by Max Miller (click to view, it's quite interesting!). Max Miller recreates historical recipes and does tons of research to explain the importance and background of the dishes. He states the recipe below could compete with our modern custard-style pumpkin pie and dares any interested to try it!
A Sugar or Pie Pumpkin
2 Sharp Apples (Recommended Granny Smith)
2 Handful of Freshly Menced Herbs (Recommended Rosemary, Thyme, & Parsley)
6 Tablespoons Salted Butter
1/3 Cup Raisins
1/3 Cup Currants
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Sherry
Crust (Store bought is fine)
Preheat oven to 425°F
Line pie dish with pie dough (no need to blink bake)
Seed and Pare the pumpkin (watch video for proper technique if needed)
Half and Thinly slice the pumpkin
Peel, Core, and Thinly slice apples
Set skillet over medium heat, melting 2 Tablespoons of butter
Beat eggs and mix in herbs
Dip pumpkin slices in egg wash (limit excess eggs to not scramble)
Fry pumpkins in skillet for around 10 minutes (until soft)
Placed cooked pumpkin in a large bowl and add 2 Tablespoons butter
Add Raisins, Currants, Sugar, and Sherry
Line the bottom of pie crust with apples
Pour pumpkin filling over the apples and smooth over the top
Place pie in the oven for 20 minutes
REDUCE temperature to 375°F, and bake for an additional 40 to 50 minutes
We hope you have a wonderful time sitting with your family, no matter what is on the menu. If you do try the Pumpion Pie recipe included, let us know- do you favor the original or our 'traditional' custard pumpkin pie?