A Thanksgiving menu without turkey is not just weird, but simply unimaginable (unless you’re vegetarian). It’s a tradition so ingrained that the celebration is nicknamed “turkey day”. But, was the all-famous ‘gobbler’ part of the original Thanksgiving menu? Did the pilgrims and natives carve up a big, juicy bird to celebrate a good harvest? Read on for a conversation starter that could rescue you from messier topics during the holidays.
The Original Menu
We all know that the first documented Thanksgiving dinner took place at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. Historians argue that the harvest celebration was mostly centered around religious ceremonies rather than dinner. That is why main course must have consisted of meat easier to fetch. Most historians claim that the main course probably consisted of venison, fish or waterfowl (think duck). This means, chances are, our favorite bird didn’t even make it to the dinner table. Additionally, potatoes and pies were out of the question too, since they weren’t growing potatoes or wheat in the area.
So, who brought Turkey to center stage?
The jury’s still out on why exactly Turkey became the chosen one for Thanksgiving. One of the most popular theories is that Sarah Josepha Hale, the Godmother of Thanksgiving, is hugely responsible. This American writer not only campaigned to make Thanksgiving an official holiday but also influenced people with her writings. Her book, Northwood included an entire chapter on eating a delectable turkey for the fall dinner. She also put recipes for turkey roast and pumpkin pie in Godey’s magazine to charm the masses.
Another theory based on logic dictates that the first big dinners didn’t become popular until the late 18th century. By that time, wild turkey was easily available and more affordable. Not to mention, that one bird could feed an entire party. Also, cows and chickens were more valuable alive than dead for their milk and eggs. So turkey became the more natural choice.
Well, no matter who proposed the concept of eating turkey on Thanksgiving, it definitely sounds more appetizing than taking a leftover venison sandwich to work on Monday!