When you think of Thanksgiving, you can practically smell the turkey baking in the oven. But, you might stop and wonder why we actually serve turkey on Thanksgiving? Many believe the pilgrims had turkey on that first Thanksgiving day, although we now know that is more than likely not the case. In fact, it is much more likely that cod, seal, lobster, venison, fowl, and the like were served at the very first feast and not turkey. So, how did the turkey become the main part of our holiday meal?
One story originates from England. The story suggests that Queen Elizabeth was celebrating a Fall Harvest and celebrated with a baked goose, as this was considered a delicacy and a very celebratory fare to feast upon. Upon hearing that the Spanish Armada had sunk on its way to attack England, the Queen was so pleased with the news that she ordered an additional roast goose to celebrate. The English were accustomed to roast goose being associated with celebrations. When the settlers in the American New Colony chose to celebrate their new home, they would have searched out wild geese. As wild turkeys were much more plentiful than geese, they would have started a new tradition of serving turkey on days of celebration and giving thanks.
While this sounds like a plausible story, it is highly unlikely that the first settlers would have had a roast turkey exclusively for their celebration. Turkey could have been part of the celebration, but it most likely would not have been featured center stage. Fish, venison and other regional fowl would have also been served.
Turkey is also a logical choice in times when food was at a premium. It would not have made sense to feast on chickens or cows, as both produce other useful foods , eggs and milk. It would not make economic sense to use them as a feast food source. Wild turkeys were larger than chickens and easier to hunt than geese, which made them an ideal choice for the Thanksgiving feast.