Why do we eat turkey and not ham for Thanksgiving?

Every year when we sit down for our Thanksgiving dinner, the majority of us are eating the same thing, turkey.  Did you ever wonder why?  Did the Pilgrims start this tradition? Were there wild turkeys running around Plymouth, Mass?


There actually is an official accounting of the first Thanksgiving meal in Plymouth. According to colonist Edward Winslow, author of Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, the first Thanksgiving did not specifically say they ate turkey.  Winslow mentioned that guests ate wild fowl, which could have been duck, geese or wild turkey.

So why do we eat turkey?  There are a few mentions throughout history.  Alexander Hamilton once remarked that “no citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving day.”  It was also widely publicized that turkey was a well-known North American bird and often hunted by pilgrims back in the day.

The real reason is probably because of the size of the birds and the fact that you can feed your whole family with one.

Guilford is lucky to have local turkey farmers, so if you are looking for the freshest local bird you can find, you will not have to leave town.  Gozzi’s Turkey Farm in Guilford also has had a fun tradition for the past couple generations.  They dye some turkeys with pastel-colored vegetable oil dyes and allow the public to stop by and take pictures.  While you are there, put your order in for your family’s Thanksgiving bird!




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