Corn for Thanksgiving: A Mini-History of the First Thanksgiving

Corn and Thanksgiving: A Mini-History

While Thanksgiving dinner fare varies from family to family, usually you’’ll find turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and corn. There is little written documentation about what was actually eaten during the First Thanksgiving dinner, but from what was recorded, we know that there are two main dishes from modern-day Thanksgiving that were present at the first. These were the turkey and corn.

Turkey and Other Wild Beasts at the First Thanksgiving

There is strong evidence that wild turkey was served at the First Thanksgiving dinner, it most likely wasn’t the main course. Duck or goose was the most likely wildfowl served as the main meal. Additionally, other meats such as venison (deer meat) were served at the First Thanksgiving dinner. The modern Thanksgiving cuisine evolved during the mid-1800s in the United States. There was a renaissance of the history of colonial America at the time, and it was then in the 19th century that the Thanksgiving Day dinner with turkey and potatoes became tradition.

Indian Corn

Corn was on the table at the First Thanksgiving and continues to be a staple of the holiday today. Edward Winslow, one of the founders of Plymouth Colony wrote that the spring before the First Thanksgiving, the settlers planted 20 acres of Indian corn (also known as flint corn). The abundant crop was served at the First Thanksgiving.

Today, the corn found on most Thanksgiving dinner tables is sweet yellow corn. However, Indian corn has remained a part of American cuisine. A variation of Indian corn produces the kernels that are popped into popcorn. Additionally, Indian corn is often purchased for decorating the Thanksgiving table.

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