Make like the Pilgrims


Countdown to Turkey Day: <24 hours.


When most of us think of Thanksgiving, a traditional cornucopia of foods come to mind. Turkey of course, and for the vegetarians, the gelatinous “Tofurkey” alternative; mashed potatoes and stuffing smothered in gravy from the bird’s belly, sweet potatoes, corn, an assortment of vegetables including squash, pumpkin, and zucchini; cranberry sauce, apple pie, etc.

These Thanksgiving staples largely reflect the local fare that would have been available to the pilgrims in Plimoth, Massachusetts, and their Native American friends four centuries ago for an autumn harvest feast–whatever your notions of the contentious history behind the real “First Thanksgiving.”

In fact, according to, many of the foods commonly consumed at modern Thanksgiving celebrations would NOT have been eaten by early settlers in the 1600s. Among the Thanksgiving “impostors” are potatoes and sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie (sweet foods were uncommon, as sugar supplies were limited).

And of course, harvest feasts in other regions of the country would have looked quite different from those in New England, as variations in climate, soil, and precipitation conditions yielded production of distinct crops.


So this Thanksgiving, why not try something new and “make like the pilgrims” by eating local!

The Eat Well Guide, along with the Consumers Union, is serving up a “Thanksgiving Local and Organic Food Challenge”  to encourage people to take advantage of local, sustainably produced resources.

Here are the details:

“This Thanksgiving, try to incorporate at least 1 local, sustainable, or organic item into your Thanksgiving feast. Search the Eat Well Guide to help you find local farms, stores and markets and then submit your recipe here:

[Another great resource I’ve discovered is the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) “eat local” website where you can search for fresh, local produce by home state and season of the year.]

Why eat local?

The Eat Well Guide makes the following case:

1. Buying local and organic food is better for you. Organic food has fewer pesticides and more nutrients, and is grown in a sustainable manner.
2. Buying local supports your local economy and members of your community.
3. Local and organic food is better for the environment. Local farmers practice organic and/or sustainable methods which use less chemicals. Plus, eating local reduces your carbon footprint because it hasn’t been shipped thousands of miles before it gets to your table.

So you see, the simple act of eating local benefits you, your community, and the environment! Check out for more information.

Does your family regularly eat non-traditional foods on Thanksgiving? In my family, we can always count on spaghetti—my Italian grandmother whips up pasta regardless of the occasion!

4 thoughts on “Make like the Pilgrims

  1. Hi RS,
    I’m glad this post sparked your interest and helped you develop new ideas for teaching about Thanksgiving in the classroom. As we like to say, “Geography helps you see the world in new ways.” Check back for more geographic ideas about upcoming winter holidays Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa.

  2. I was trying to think of a good way to work Thanksgiving into school without stepping on the toes of those who do not celebrate the holiday. You just gave me an idea 🙂
    I think it would be interesting to talk to students about why the pilgrams ate what they did (local food) and then we could have our own banquet eating food local to us. With this we could teach students about the benefits of eating locally in addition to a little history.
    I think it could be fun and it’s always important to encourage students to think about what they are putting into their bodies.

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