Of course, most of us have heard the story about a group of Wampanoag people joining the English colonists for a feast in 1621 to celebrate the Pilgrims’ first successful harvest, in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
But it certainly isn’t the only story about Thanksgiving tradition.
While many are familiar with the 1621 celebration, historians recount another Thanksgiving feast that occurred even earlier, and was held in Florida.
That event occurred in St. Augustine on Sept. 8, 1565 — 56 years before the Pilgrims had their feast, historians report.
Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles and the 800 Spanish settlers with him celebrated their safe arrival when they came ashore St. Augustine with a Mass of Thanksgiving, followed by a festive meal.
The Timucuans were invited to join in this celebration, according to information from the National Park Services.
Based on what historians know about the food that was on board their ship, this meal likely would have included a stew of salted pork, onions, and chickpeas with garlic seasoning (called cocido); sea biscuits (thick crackers made of flour and salt, baked until hard); and, red wine.
In other words, the menu likely would have been foods that are native to Spain, not North America.
However, Menendez did stop in Puerto Rico to resupply, so there likely was Caribbean food, too, according to information from the Florida Museum.
So, chances are, this ‘Thanksgiving’ meal could have included yucca.
It is not known if the Timucuans brought anything to the meal, but if they did, it likely would have been turkey, venison, gopher tortoise, mullet, drum, catfish, corn, beans and squash.
The meal would not have featured cranberry sauce, as cranberries don’t grow that far south.
And, neither the St. Augustine or Plymouth meals would have featured mashed potatoes, since potatoes were not grown in America at that time.
Another difference in the menus?
The Spanish used the food they had on their ship; the Pilgrims had been raising crops for months and were celebrating their harvest. Or, so that story goes.
And, while turkey plays a central role in tales about the New England feast, it’s likely that seafood and wild fowl would have played a larger role.
Another big difference is that the event in St. Augustine focused more on prayer than on food.
Plus, that event did not turn into an annual tradition, unlike the festivities in Plymouth.
Thus, the Plymouth gathering became the one that influenced the nation — so much so that Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday.
So, as far as tradition goes, the Plymouth gathering in New England easily carries the day.
Plus, the British dominated the land more than the Spanish and French, so that, too, could also help explain why the Pilgrim story prevailed.
But Massachusetts and Florida aren’t the only ones that claim to have hosted the first Thanksgiving — Texas, Maine and Virginia also stake similar bragging rights.
No matter its origins, though, the day remains a tradition for gathering with family and friends to share life’s bounty.
Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a healthy and Happy Thanksgiving.
How about a bowl of pumpkin soup to help get things started? (Check out the accompanying recipe).
Shari Bresin is the Family & Consumer Science Agent for the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Pasco County. Pasco County Extension
(Courtesy of MyPlate)
1 can white beans
1 onion (small, finely chopped)
1 cup water
1 can pumpkin (15 ounce)
1 1/2 cups 100% apple juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, allspice, or ginger
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Wash hands with soap and water.
Blend white beans, onion and water with a potato masher or blender till smooth.
In a large pot, add the pumpkin, juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and salt. Stir.
Add the blended bean mix to the pot.
Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, until warmed through.
Published November 22, 2023