What they never told us about those first Thanksgiving turkeys

If your Thanksgiving preparations cause you to go online seeking some Thanksgiving-related recipe, it will be hard to resist one of the sites that will probably pop up: The Smithsonian Institute’s “14 Fun Facts About Turkeys.”

There are several new turkey insights among the 14. And when it comes to one assumption about the first Thanksgiving that’s probably shared by most everyone in Charlotte Area, Fun Fact #4 is there to correct the record.

Most of the details of that first Thanksgiving aren’t in question. The Pilgrims had survived the ordeal of the journey and had bonded with the helpful American Indians. So, after the first successful harvest, everybody thought it was time for a joint celebration as a neighborhood kind of thing. The most bounteous crop had been corn (which the Indians had shown them how to grow). Dried corn was on the menu which included venison, clams, pumpkin, squash, etc.…

And, of course, turkeys—which are native to the Americas—which would have been brought to the feast by the Indians.

Nope.

While there is no record of the details of the exact meal, it is likely that if turkeys did grace the first Thanksgiving table, they were probably brought by the Pilgrims from Europe.

If that possibility causes many heads to do double-takes, it may be because we haven’t given much consideration to the length of time between Christopher Columbus’ voyage and the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock.

Between 1492 and 1621, there had been 129 years of discovery, settlement, and back-and-forth between the Americas and Europe. They may not have had jets to speed the trips, but after 129 years, there had been quite a lot of those back-and-forths. That was why it might have been possible for the first American Indian to greet the Pilgrims in English. (Squanto had spent five years in Spain and sailed twice to England).

But, back to the turkeys.

While the bird is actually native to North America, the subspecies (Fun Fact #3) that is most successfully domesticated is a variety the Aztecs developed in southern Mexico. The Spaniards brought those turkeys back to Europe, and by the early 1600s, they had become gastronomic hits. These birds might have graced many an English baron’s tables. Quoting the Smithsonian, “The Pilgrims then brought several of these domestic turkeys back to North America.”

The rest is Thanksgiving history.

We hope your own Thanksgiving celebrations are equally tasty—and that the year ahead will be more bounteous than the those that came before.

 

David Harkins is NC Real Estate Broker and REALTOR®. Before working in Real Estate, he had a fulfilling career in business consulting and marketing, advising both large and small companies including several in the Fortune 500 and many of America’s largest nonprofit organizations. In his spare time, he consults, speaks, writes, hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.

Comments (0)