In 1621, Pilgrim Edward Winslow wrote to a friend in England. His letter records the only eyewitness account of the first Thanksgiving feast:
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. The four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
Personally, I once had the good fortune to meet a Pilgrim.
Working as the food editor for Hometown magazine, I received an assignment to interview an impersonator.
A self-taught historian and gifted cook, the lady had applied for a position at Plimoth Plantation.
“I picked Plimoth Plantation for no good reason,” she told me. “What kind of skills do you need to be a Pilgrim?”
She portrayed Julia Kempton, the older sister of Governor Carver’s wife.
A 40-year-old widow with three children, Julia was marrying a 21-year-old.
“I’d always say that he was marrying me because of my great cooking,” she quipped.
Julia Kempton shared a homestead with her nephew.
“My ‘housemate’ was a trained chef, who was between jobs,” she said. “At Plimoth Plantation we were expected to do the actual cooking, but it was important that everything we prepared was cooked authentically. It got so that the head of the Cooking Department there would give us the very best ingredients, and we’d have a feast at our house.”
The Pilgrims ate lobster sometimes out of necessity.
“They didn’t enjoy it, but we sure did,” she told me.
Next Thursday, we, New Englanders, will recreate our forebears' harvest feast, with turkey, native to these parts, and all the trimmings.
By the goodness of God, I pray that you are so far from want and partakers of plenty on this Thanksgiving Day.