REGION — Thanksgiving is on the horizon, and that means Franklin County residents will be flooding the stores to pick up any last minute side items to complete their turkey day festivities, if they haven’t already.

Staples like mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce go hand in hand with your typical Thanksgiving spread that most people associate with the holiday. The staples we think of are far from what was originally served at the original Thanksgiving feast.

Previously, we established a couple facts about the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal, the turkey. Moreover, turkey was likely not served at the harvest festival that many have come to know as the first Thanksgiving. In fact, the birds of choice were likely ducks, swans and geese.

Additionally, the indigenous Wampanoag tribe brought deer to the feast and local seafood like lobster, bass and oysters were also served. Though the original Thanksgiving took place in 1621, it wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that consumption of the bird became a tradition of the holiday, with most people crediting the large animal population and the number of people one bird can feed as the driving factors to that rise.

Often accompanying the bird will be a mountain of fluffy mashed potatoes, often drizzled with gravy and melted butter. No holiday meal would be complete without spuds showing up on the plate in one way or another, but not a single potato was likely seen at the original feast. Part of this had to do with the fact that potatoes are not native to North America.

The first permanent potato patch wouldn’t come to the United States until almost a century later in 1719, when Scotch-Irish immigrants were believed to be the first to establish permanent potato patches in New Hampshire. It would still be a few more decades after that when mashed potatoes would became a staple of the American diet and subsequently Thanksgiving.


Two foods that were very likely served at the first Thanksgiving were pumpkins and cranberries, but not in the form of a pie or a sauce, respectively.

Cranberries were used by the indigenous people not just as food, but also as a dye and even medical purposes, and while they may have been present at the first Thanksgiving, they were likely consumed as berries.

The earliest account of people turning cranberries into a sauce came half-a-century later in 1672. Settlers started boiling the berries with sugar to serve over a meat dish, and by the late eighteenth century cranberry sauce with cooked onions became a popular accompaniment with turkey. Soon after the sauce was a holiday staple.

As for pumpkins, no meal is complete without dessert, but the gourds would not find their way into a pie until the first half of the twentieth century, when canned pumpkin entered the market and made baking with pumpkin much more convenient. Before that, pumpkin pudding was the dessert of choice when working with the squash.

Pumpkins had been established in North America as early as 10,000 years ago when the orange colored squash first appeared in Mexico, according to The Smithsonian. 5,000 years later, pumpkins would start being cultivated in the eastern part of the United States.

As for preparation at the first Thanksgiving, since baking was not an option, early settlers would hollow out the pumpkin and fill it with milk, honey and spices to make a custard, then roast them whole in hot ashes.

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