WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

Professor At Washington And Lee Gives Students Taste Of Real Thanksgiving

Play associated audio
The modern American Thanksgiving turkey probably wasn't on pilgrims' plates centuries ago.
The modern American Thanksgiving turkey probably wasn't on pilgrims' plates centuries ago.

As you plan this year's Thanksgiving dinner, you might want to consider what the Pilgrims really ate. One Washington and Lee University professor wanted to give her students a taste.

Before heading home for the holidays, anthropologist Allison Bell invited her students to dine on what research shows the pilgrims actually ate.

"It's not even clear that there was turkey at the first Thanksgiving in 1621," Bell says. "Probably geese and duck would have been something that they encountered more easily than wild turkey."

Potatoes were also absent, and sweet potatoes were unknown to the masses in England and Massachusetts.

"Sweet potatoes were considered a delicacy at the time," Bell says. "They were even possibly considered an aphrodisiac."

Pumpkin pie was not on the menu, but eel and other seafoods were likely served. The meal prepared by Washington and Lee's executive chef featured of steamed mussels, roast duck and game hen, venison, lima beans, parsnips, carrots and black eyed peas. Students gave it rave reviews.

"Turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes — I'll eat them, but they're not my favorite," says one student. "I really prefer the venisons and the mussels and the duck."

"The parsnips were really good. I'd never had parsnips before, but they tasted like a cross between carrots and potatoes," says another student. "The mussels were really good. I'm going to petition at my house to like have mussels at Thanksgiving now."

And some got a kick out of eating pilgrim style. Forks were a new luxury in England at the time, so the first feast was likely consumed with spoons.

WAMU 88.5

Barry Meier: "Missing Man"

Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.


5,000-Year-Old Chinese Beer Recipe Revealed

Researchers discovered ancient "beer-making tool kits" in underground rooms built between 3400 and 2900 B.C. Analyses of funnels, pots and jugs show the brewers were using pretty advanced techniques.
WAMU 88.5

The Fight for D.C.'s Budget Freedom

Last week, a House committee with oversight of the District passed legislation that would block the ability of the Council to spend its own tax dollars.

WAMU 88.5

The U.S. Expands Ties To Vietnam

President Barack Obama lifts the embargo against U.S. arms sales to Vietnam. We discuss what closer ties between the U.S. and Vietnam mean for trade, leverage on human rights and growing concerns over China's military expansion.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.