Pilgrim Bill of Fare
The Pilgrims had a tough time to survive their first winter. Food was the biggest problem. Hungry people cannot fight weakness or discouragement half so well as when they are filled and their appetites satisfied.
It was most natural, then, that when the Pilgrims finally were able to sit down for their famous feast of Thanksgiving, they made the most of the abundance with which their labors had been blessed.
If they lacked the convenience of neatly packaged “mixes” and No. 2 cans of this and that, cellophane wrapped meat, and instant coffee, we may be sure that they had the freshest and most delicious vegetables, meats, fruits, turkey, fish and waterfowl.
Governor Bradford, in his account of this famed feast, wrote:
They began to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitt up their houses and dwellings against winters being all recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. All ye summer there was no wante. And now began to come in a store of foule as winter approached…
And beside waterfoule, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, beside venison, etc. Beside they had about a peck of meal to a person, or now, since Harvest, Indian corne to that proportion, which many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not fained but true reports.
About 90 Indians arrived to share in the feast. That the Pilgrims numbered only about fifty must have given the Pilgrims some serious inward concern, but the Indians themselves showed their friendship and sincere intentions by contributing five deer as venison.
The sober Pilgrims really “loosened up” on this great day of jovial relaxation, and the fact that they found wine a desirable supplement to their festival no doubt contributed much to the revelry of the occasion. This wine they had made from the wild red and white grapes so profusely growing about them. Under its warming influence, red man and white lessened their mutual watchfulness toward each other, friendship flamed and there were dances and hilarity which it seems hard, now, to reconcile with the usually severely restrained attitude of both races.
The menu included roast venison, whopping big roasted turkeys, geese, duck, lobsters, shellfish of all kinds, fruits, and steamed pudding.
That prayer, and thanksgiving by psalm and song, were also real parts of the festal elements on that day we may rest assured, for the Pilgrims were not likely to forget their religious duty.
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