Thanksgiving Pilgrims

The leaves have almost all fallen, the store shelves are lined with Christmas merchandise, and recipes for pumpkin everything are everywhere. It can only mean that Thanksgiving is near. Families are busy making menus and fighting over who gets to bring the green bean casserole this year. Tons of turkeys are being bought and cranberries are enjoying their seasonal peak. Local morning shows everywhere are giving tips about fun twists for the traditional mashed potatoes.


Traditional is a funny word. The first Thanksgiving was back in 1621. That first American harvest festival was hosted by the still struggling to survive Pilgrims and attended by some of the seasoned Wampanoag tribe. It turns out the first Thanksgiving was nothing like our traditional meals. There were almost no carbs, the menu was mostly meat like venison, fish, shellfish, and some type of fowl. There was no pie. The Pilgrims didn’t have ovens yet and lacked the ingredients for piecrust. There were no rolls either. The first Thanksgiving was much healthier than our 'annual free pass to over indulge.'


As modern Americans, a feast has become a time to over indulge (am guilty of that!). It is ironic that on a holiday specifically set aside to engender gratitude we often waste so much food, consume so much food, and rarely think anything of either. America’s obesity epidemic is certainly not caused by Thanksgiving dinner. But, our overall attitude on display during the festivities is symptomatic of the problem.

Most of us want everything bigger and right away. The Pilgrims back in 1621 weren’t yet sure they were going to make it. They had a feast, but likely little, if any, of the food was wasted. Winter was coming and the Pilgrims knew how deadly that could be. The feast was in part an effort to build better relations with the local natives and a genuine outpouring of thankfulness for being alive.


If we ate like the Pilgrims at Thanksgiving, and every day, we would be a much healthier people. The food itself was of course locally sourced and free from preservatives. It was highly nutritious and rich in proteins and vitamins and minerals. Almost everything was fruit, vegetable or meat. But, eating like the Pilgrims is more than simply eating better foods.


The Pilgrims ate to survive and to have energy to live. Modern Americans however eat to entertain themselves. Most of us are so far removed from any knowledge of where our food comes from and how hard someone worked to bring it to market that it’s difficult to believe we could possibly be truly grateful for it.


This Thanksgiving, even if we skip the venison, let’s eat like the Pilgrims that first Thanksgiving. Let’s eat without waste and stop when we are full. Most importantly let’s eat to live and not live to eat and give thanks to what we have.


About the author:


Jason McBride is an author and storyteller who loves to use both his words and pictures to make others smile, cry, think, laugh, and to keep turning the page.