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11/22/16- Pigeon for Thanksgiving?

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It is time to get your fat pants out because Thanksgiving is just a few short days away. Many families celebrate Thanksgiving and many traditions have been formed since the first Thanksgiving centuries ago. Turkey and dressing will be the main course at many feasts followed by rice and gravy, but have you ever thought about what was served at the very first Thanksgiving? Luckily, I have come across a few food groups that were present at the very first Thanksgiving and you will be shocked at how the menu has changed over the course of time (and I’m thankful for that). Eagle, eel, and pigeon were just a few “delicacies” that were passed around at the first Thanksgiving.


Yes, you’re seeing this correctly…Bald Eagle was consumed at the very first Thanksgiving. Apparently it was believed that the bald eagle was a prestigious bird and deserved a spot right on the table next to the turkey. That, of course, was before the Bald Eagle was an endangered species and the population was nearly decimated by pesticides and other chemicals (DDT especially). Today, the eagle’s numbers have climbed, but it is safe to say that they will not be served up on a silver platter ever again.


I love sushi. I do not love eel. Maybe it’s a texture thing, I don’t know but I would have to politely excuse myself from the table if eel was ever an option for Thanksgiving. It was served at the very first Thanksgiving (slime and all). I suppose their popularity in the New England area at the time earned them a spot on the dining room table, but I am glad we threw out that tradition.


The pilgrims preferred passenger pigeon at their Thanksgiving gatherings. The pigeons were very common in the area then, but now there are no existing wild populations (thanks to old thanksgiving traditions probably). Once again, I am so thankful that we are not expected to serve pigeons to our loved ones. I understand that this bird is a delicacy in other countries, but I would prefer to stick with turkeys and pigs for the meat on my table.

It is wild to think that animals that are now extinct or federally protected were once served at Thanksgiving. It really goes to show how times have changed, for the better I must add! While you are passing around the mashed potatoes and the green bean casserole this year or carving your turkey and ham, be THANKFUL an eel is not being fileted in the kitchen. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy!

By: Red Clay

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