Was Seafood Present at the First Thanksgiving? - Boxhill Crabcakes


Was Seafood Present at the First Thanksgiving?

Maryland Crab Cakes

Were there crab cakes at the first Thanksgiving?

We all know there was turkey at the first Thanksgiving. That’s why we still eat turkey on Thanksgiving today. We also eat mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. You may even decide to surprise your family with some delicious Maryland crab cakes for Thanksgiving as well. Out of the myriad of different foods we enjoy on this special family holiday, how much of it did the original natives and settlers eat? Did they even eat any seafood? These are the questions we’re setting out to answer today at Box Hill Crab Cakes.

Tales of Old

To know exactly what foods were present at the first Thanksgiving, we need to turn to the surviving primary sources of the time. The feast took place in 1621—nearly 400 years ago—and there are only two surviving accounts. The first is a letter from Edward Winslow, in which he describes how the settlers hunted fowl and the natives hunted deer for the giant fest. Another letter describes corn in addition to the fowl and venison.

So, fowl, deer, and corn were the only things that were eaten during this historic feast? In all likelihood, there were other foods eaten during the first Thanksgiving; this is where we turn to Kathleen Wall, an historian and foodways culinarian at the Plymouth Plantation. Wall uses other primary sources from the same time period and archaeological food remains to determine the diets of the original pilgrims. According to Wall, turkey may have been present at the first Thanksgiving, but it’s also likely that the fowl mentioned was goose or duck. Bread was made of corn, and turkey was stuffed with chestnuts. Pumpkins and other squashes were a part of the native crop, which is why we carry on the tradition of eating pumpkin pie. Wall adds that a staple of the native diet was seafood. Eels and shellfish—like lobster, clams, and mussels—were likely just as common a table item as fowl and deer. The natives dried fish and smoked shellfish, as well as ate other fish, shrimp, oysters, and crabs. So, it’s very likely that the natives present at the first Thanksgiving provided seafood for the pilgrims to eat. While crab cakes were not in existence at this time, it’s likely that the natives served seafood such as crabs, clams, mussels, and oysters.

How to Have a Traditional Thanksgiving

If you want to have a historical Thanksgiving, loose the potatoes and pies and replace them with seafood and venison. Potatoes had not yet been introduced to the New World at this point, and since the only flour was made of corn, traditional English pastries made of wheat flour were unable to be prepared. Trade out your pumpkin pie for a roasted pumpkin or butternut squash. Meat was prevalent at the first Thanksgiving, so having more than just turkey would make your meal more authentic. Add a roasted duck or goose and a selection of seafood, including oysters, clams, and crab. Or, if you can’t say no to your Maryland side, go with crab cakes. They’re so delicious, no one will blame you!

Located in Abingdon, Maryland, our crab cakes are available year round and can be ordered online to be shipped straight to your front door. Order online here or call us at (410)-515-3662. If you ever have any questions or comments about Box Hill or our Maryland crab cakes, use our contact form here.

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