Tomorrow we here in the United States will be celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving with a meal that most likely includes turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and other side dishes each family considers necessary for the feast. A far cry from the first Thanksgiving, which featured cocido, a stew made with salt pork, garbanzo beans seasoned with garlic.
According to current historical research, 56 years before the “first Thanksgiving” in Plymouth, Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles and a company of 500 soldiers, 200 sailors, 100 farmers and craftsmen (and some wives and children) landed at what is now St. Augustine, FL on September 8, 1565. To celebrate the expedition’s safe arrival, the Spanish and natives of the area took part in a Mass of thanksgiving followed by a meal. In addition to the stew, hard sea biscuits and red wine from the ships’ stores probably rounded out the meal. If the natives contributed food, it may have been deer, gopher tortoise, fish, maize, beans, squash, nuts or fruits, food items common to their diet. According to historian Michael Gannon, “These stand as the first documented thanksgiving events in a permanent settlement anywhere in North America north of Mexico.” (To read more about the real first Thanksgiving meal, click here.)