Thank you for the food!

A brief history on American food culture.

As we sit down for Thanksgiving with our loved ones this year, perhaps it’s worth taking a moment to consider the story behind the food you’re eating and to acknowledge the people that made Thanksgiving what it is today.

The First Feast

Turns out that it all began with the pilgrim leader, Governor William Bradford. He organized the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621 with the neighboring Wampanoag Indians. Yet, it was actually the Wampanoag Indians who taught the pilgrims how to cultivate the land.

The Mother of Thanksgiving

It wasn’t until much later that Sarah Josepha Hale, (1788–1879) author of the classic nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and an influential editor of her time, urged President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of giving of thanks. She selected the last Thursday in November because, as she said, harvests were done, elections were over, and summer travelers were home. She believed a national Thanksgiving holiday would unite Americans. Sarah also introduced America to the food we’re still eating today: turkey, cranberries, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes.

Pardon your Turkey

In 1947, Truman pardoned the turkey brought to the White House. It is said that upon leaving the Oval Office, he left special instructions to each successor, detailing why the pardoning of the turkey must be done. Some have pardoned the turkey. Some have not, but the pardoning of a symbolic turkey each and every year holds special significance not just to the pact between turkey and man, but as a coded message from president to president.

The Present Day

Currently, 91% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, resulting in about 280 million turkeys sold each year. And you’re probably not surprised to find out that the food on your table this Thanksgiving comes all over the country:

  • Turkeys: Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, and Indiana
  • Cranberries: Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington
  • Pumpkins: Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and New York
  • Sweet Potatoes: North Carolina, California, Mississippi

So this Thanksgiving be thankful for those that have cultivated, united, and pardoned the food that we are eating. And if you want to be part of cultivating, uniting and pardoning the next generation of food reach out to us at HowGood.


Colman, Penny. 2008. Thanksgiving: The True Story. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.