November 22, 2022
We’re all familiar with the traditional Thanksgiving feast made up of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, veggies and enough pie to feed a village. What you might not be familiar with is where these traditions stemmed from, and who contributed to the creation of standard Thanksgiving recipes.
The Natives and Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving in 1621 laid the foundation for today’s traditional Thanksgiving meals. The Indigenous people introduced the Pilgrims to native crops like maize, beans, and squash, which became integral to the feast. These ingredients not only enriched the table but also showcased the importance of sharing knowledge and resources.
The use of those particular ingredients was due to what was in harvest in autumn in New England. Though we can purchase most products year round now, the tradition remains to feast on vegetables and other ingredients commonly harvested in the fall.
Over the centuries, Thanksgiving has evolved, incorporating new ingredients and recipes, but it still pays homage to the original feast. Roast turkey, a centerpiece of today’s Thanksgiving, was inspired by the Pilgrims’ feast, even though their menu included various wildfowl. Pumpkin pies, cranberry sauce, and other dishes trace their roots to the early Thanksgiving, showcasing the enduring influence of that historic meal on contemporary traditions.
The biggest culinary influences prior to the English came from Indigenous tribes such as the Wompanoag people. Here are some traditional recipes from both of those groups. Try these authentic Thanksgiving recipes at home and make a meal like they did in earlier centuries!
Nasaump is a traditional Wampanoag dish, blending dried corn, indigenous berries, and nuts. This mixture is boiled until thick, resulting in a hearty, porridge-like consistency reminiscent of oatmeal. With deep roots in Native American culture, Nasaump not only offers sustenance but also embodies the rich culinary heritage of the Wampanoag people, highlighting their resourcefulness and connection to the land.
Sobaheg, derived from the Wampanoag culture, translates to “stew.” This adaptable dish seamlessly incorporates seasonal ingredients, making it a timeless culinary tradition. Ground nuts are the base of this meal, contributing both flavor and thickness to the Sobaheg. Remarkably, variations of this savory stew continue to be crafted in Wampanoag communities today, preserving a connection to their culinary heritage while embracing the bounty of each season.
Stewed Pompion is a delightful recipe for pumpkin, referred to as “pompions” by 17th-century English settlers in New England. They didn’t always differentiate between seemingly similar ingredients, so all squash was referred to as “pompions.” The recipe itself offers a glimpse into the region’s early culinary traditions and popular flavors. Documented by John Josselyn in the 1600s, it stands as one of the earliest written recipes from this era, and he named it a “standing dish,” implying it was a daily staple back then.
During your Thanksgiving crawl through Plymouth, consider taking a trip to the Plimoth Grist Mill for fresh, authentic grain. Take it home, take a look at the inner workings of the mill, order online, or visit a restaurant that utilizes their fresh product for grits, cornmeal, flour, and other grains!
The Plimoth Grist Mill, a reconstruction of the Plymouth Colonists’ original 1636 grain mill, offers a captivating journey into history and local grain production. Visitors can witness the mill’s operation and participate in interactive exhibits that explore water power, simple machines, and river herring migrations.
This working mill is a step in revitalizing regional grain economies, offering fresh grains for purchase, and supporting efforts to localize grain production. Ask any staff member about the farms from which the grain is harvested, and what restaurants you can enjoy meals made from the mill’s fresh product. Some of these restaurants include The Artisan Pig, Su Casa, The Tasty, Salt Raw Bar + Fine Cuisine, Bramhall’s Country Store, Mallebar A Modern French Brasserie, Cork + Table Kitchen and Bar, Food Court, Rye Tavern, Leena’s Kitchen, Jenny’s Bread on Fremont Street, Log Cabin Bakers.
Enjoy the authenticity of fresh grains and a Thanksgiving meal in America’s hometown where it all started.