Thanksgiving Food. A true Case of Mistaken Identity. 2023.


Turkey wasn’t on the menu at the first Thanksgiving. The Wampanoag probably contributed to the feast killed deer, assorted wildfowl, a bounty of cod and bass, and flint, a native variety of corn harvested by the Native Americans, which was eaten as corn bread and porridge. and vegetables like pumpkins, corn and cranberries. And, Chief Ousamequin shared a peace pipe with Plymouth Governor John Carver.


A true case of mistaken identity?

Native Americans had accomplished the domestication of “Guajolotl” in the Nahuatl language, [turkeys] before Europeans set foot on the continent. The Spanish pronounced it Guajolote, and in Spain it was called “Pavo” after its similarity with PavoReal [Peacock]

Guajolotls had been raised in Mexico and Central America for more than 500 years before the Spanish arrived. Turkey relics have been found in Arizona dating as far back as 25 A.D., and turkey-raising may well be one of the oldest forms of organized meat production in the Northern Hemisphere.

English call it  “turkey” because they thought it came from Turkey, after its similarity to the African guinea fowl also known as Turkey Cock.  The Turks call turkey “Hindi” because they thought it came from India. And in Hindi language, in India, a turkey is called ‘Piru/Peru’, borrowed from Portugese language apparently. 

 After the domestic “turkey” spread across Europe in the 1500s, the English colonists who settled the New World brought these tasty birds with them across the Atlantic back to the land of their origin. Imagine the pilgrims’ surprise to find the turkey already one of the most plentiful foods of the American Indians. by Charles Ruth, SCDNR Big Game Program Coordinator.

Pardon Turkeys

The history of U.S. presidents pardoning turkeys is patchy. Harry Truman is often credited with being the first president to pardon a turkey, but that’s not quite true. He was the first to receive a ceremonial turkey from the National Turkey Federation – and he had it for dinner. John F. Kennedy was the first to let a Thanksgiving turkey go, followed by Richard Nixon who sent his turkey to a petting zoo. George H.W. Bush is the president who formalized the turkey pardoning tradition in 1989.

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