Thanksgiving - A Pilgrim's Recipe Book November 13 2009

In my Thanksgiving research, I found fascinating information about what the Pilgrims and Wampanoags actually ate around the time of the First Thanksgiving - it was quite different from the Thanksgiving celebrations we know today! Use the provided recipes to help students compare the First Thanksgiving with our own celebrations, and learn a little extra along the way!


I took these vocabulary words straight from the recipes themselves, and began to notice the differences in word meanings from today. This brought to mind homonyms and homophones, which can always use some review and practice!

kettle, simmer, spit (the kind that turns meat over a fire), fowl, dressing, draw, refuse, sharp, fair, standing (dish), dice, mussels, game

Homonyms and Homophones

Homonyms are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings, and homophones sound the same but have different meanings. The words I took from the Pilgrims' recipes include:


Have students contrast the different meanings of the words above. What do they mean in context of the Pilgrims' recipes?

Quick Facts

There are a few helpful facts about food eaten by the Pilgrims and Wampanoags in the 1600s at The First Thanksgiving. Project the site for your kids, or have them access it in the computer lab, and direct them to write down five quick facts about food. This list of facts will be helpful when it's time for students to compare and contrast Thanksgiving food with their own Thanksgiving celebrations.

In-Depth Detail

The following recipes offer opportunities for further study of the above vocabulary and the food of the Pilgrims and Wampanoags. When students read the recipes, have them identify the vocabulary in context, and write down predictions of what the words mean. They can use the Predict, Define, and Sketch chart to write down and sketch the definitions of the words.

The recipes include Boiled Fish, Boiling Turkey, Roasted Venison, Roasting Turkeys, Sauce for a Turkey, Sea Biscuits, Stewed Pompion, and Succotash.

When you print these out, have students create a booklet out of them to keep for more exploration at home!

As students are studying the recipes, make a list on chart paper of the common foods for the Pilgrims and Wampanoags, and a separate list of the kinds of food that we typically eat for Thanksgiving. The can use this information for the next activity.

Compare & Contrast

Create, or have students create, a Venn diagram that compares and contrasts The Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving with Thanksgiving Today. If you need further reading, take a look at Mayflower: A Hands-On History Look at the Pilgrims' Journey to the New World (page 29 has more information about food).

Once the Venn Diagrams are finished, have students write a paragraph about how our Thanksgiving celebrations are similar to the Pilgrims' first thanksgiving, and another paragraph about how they're different. Teach a mini-lesson on using an opening and closing sentence for this piece (you may need to generate some examples), and then have them revise and edit their paragraphs. Use the final drafts as a portfolio or assessment piece, and challenge students to make some of these recipes at home for their own Thanksgiving celebrations!