Rock It – Pilgrim Style
By Bonnie Pfiester Fitness Trainer
The Pilgrims were on a high-protein, low-carb diet
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast known as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations. I’ve often wondered what was on their menu back then. Something tells me it wasn’t high-calorie stuffing and pumpkin pie.
From what I understand, a person’s social standing determined the food they ate. The best food was placed closest to the most important people at the table. Instead of sampling everything, people just ate what was next to them.
Although the traditional Thanksgiving meal typically includes a big turkey or ham, we eat more side dishes than meat. The seventeenth century meal would have included a lot more protein from meats like deer and wild fowl.
Unlike today’s menu where we have loads of vegetable dishes, veggies weren’t always available to the colonists. Instead of high-calorie casseroles, the side dishes were either fresh or dried, like Indian corn. Since they had no refrigeration, they couldn’t have made my grandmother’s congealed salad either.
Pies were not an option since ovens weren’t even invented. That means no fancy bread or cakes either. As a matter of fact, although the Pilgrims did bring sugar on the Mayflower, the sugar supply had dwindled by that time so it was very unlikely there were many sweets at all.
The colonists cooked more like I do – they used a lot of spices and didn’t use measuring cups. The pilgrims improvised with a lot cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and dried fruit in sauces for meats. Maybe that’s where we got the idea to make cranberry sauce.
The big meal was typically eaten at our lunchtime, which they called “noonmeat”. Their supper was a much smaller meal, which is definitely better for the waistline. By eating during the day, the colonists had more time to burn off the extra calories.
Finally, one thing we often forget is that the colonists were more active than we are today. Days consisted of hard labor for all the men, women and children. While the boys were building houses, gathering crops, collecting firewood and hunting food, women were churning butter, making candles, milking goats, washing clothes and cooking.
The colonists didn’t gather their food up in less than one hour at the grocery store. Resting simply wasn’t an option. Preparing the food for the celebration was hard work. No wonder they celebrated when they finally got to eat what they had worked so hard for.
You are invited to leave your fitness and sports nutrition questions in the comments below for Bonnie to briefly answer or write about in future articles.