Turkey and Venison, but No Pumpkin Pie

THE first Thanksgiving lasted three days, sometime between Sept. 21 and Nov. 9, 1621. No one knows exactly when.

After their first terrible winter, the Pilgrims found summer in Massachusetts much more pleasant. And the immigrants had much to be thankful for. They had struggled through great difficulties, but their first harvest was good, thanks to the kindness of the Indian people who taught the Pilgrims how to farm corn according to their own methods.

William Bradford wrote in his history of Plymouth, "All summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached... there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc."

Bradford tells of all the flour and Indian corn the people shared, and how many fish they caught. The Pilgrims stored plenty of food for the winter and felt very thankful.

Besides the wild turkeys and waterfowl (ducks and geese, probably), and the corn and wheat breads, the Indian guests brought with them deer meat (venison).

There were plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and herbs growing wild nearby. Many of these, like grapes, cherries, raspberries, and plums, may well have been preserved for the thanksgiving feast.

There were probably squash and pumpkins, wild onions, crab apples, and a large variety of nuts. But, alas, there was probably no pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce: The Pilgrims had no sugar with them.

Various kinds of meat, fish, and fowl were the most important dishes, but all of the food was served at the same time, including dessert. You just took as much as you wanted of whatever you wanted.

The Pilgrims ate off of wooden dishes and sometimes two people shared a dish. They had no forks, so dinner was taken by hand or by spoon and sometimes by knife. Everybody used big napkins. The women did the cooking, but the children did much of the serving.

In all, 90 Indians and 50 Pilgrims sat down to feast together on that first American Thanksgiving - 140 friends. What a party! `Kidspace' is a place on the Home Forum pages where kids can find stories that will spark imaginations, entertain with a tall tale, explain how things work, or describe a real-life event. These articles appear twice a month, always on a Tuesday.

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