We look forward to Thanksgiving and the feast it promises every year. Turkey is the main event at the traditional Thanksgiving meal we know today, with sides of stuffing, mashed potatoes, casseroles, cranberries and bread.

Was it always this way? What about at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 at Plymouth Colony that was thrown by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe? I investigated to find out what exactly the first Thanksgiving meal consisted of and how it evolved in history. 

The Menu Was Simpler

The first Thanksgiving in 1621 lasted three days and wildfowl, corn and venison filled the table. It is said that the Wampanoag Indians served five deer and four pilgrims were sent on a "fowling mission" in preparation for this feast.

This preparation might sound familiar to how our parents still make a "fowling mission" to the grocery store to buy a turkey.

The Feast Was Healthier

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Mikayla Ostendorf

The Pilgrims and Indians were a bit healthier than us Millennials, as they probably used herbs, onions or nuts to season their wildfowl. This is quite different than the calorie-rich stuffing we eat today. Typical.

The feast also most likely featured harvested plants that the Pilgrims grew with help from Native Americans. It is also thought they served seafood.

The Entire Nation Gets Invited to Celebrate

While The States used to celebrate harvest season individually, it wasn't until 1863 that Congress set the official nationwide Thanksgiving holiday.

People added their own twist to the harvest over the years. In the 20th century, we saw the introduction of the green bean casserole, canned cranberry sauce by Ocean Spray in 1912 and potatoes from South America.

Turkey Steals the Show

Turkey became the main dish partially because of a Hale Bertelsen novel that highlights turkey as the star of Thanksgiving. America followed this image, and turkey still remains the main staple of the feast.

As you gather around the table this holiday season and fill up your plate with three different types of pie, you can now talk with your family about the humble history of Thanksgiving.

Happy feasting and celebrating!