The first recorded ‘Spirit of Gratitude” with Indians and explorers sharing food and prayer occurred in North America long before the Pilgrim’s landed at Plymouth Rock. Native Americans have traditionally embraced rituals around food and one of the most notable explorers and colonists, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565, founded Saint Augustine and named it in honor of the saint whose feast day it was when he first sighted land. This happened 42 years before Jamestown was settled in 1607, and over 50 years before the Plymouth landing in 1620, making it the oldest European settlement in America. Menéndez is responsible for the first permanent settlement of Saint Augustine and, possibly, the first Thanksgiving dinner with the Timucua.
The Sunshine State’s first Thanksgiving dish could have been a Spanish stew with pork, garbanzo beans, sausage, fresh local vegetables, garlic and olive oil. Timucuans likely contributed local game and fish such as mullet, catfish, tortoise, oysters or clams. Eminent Florida historian Michael V. Gannon wrote, in his book The Cross in the Sand, “the feast day observed…after Mass, the Adelantado (Spanish governor to the area) had the Indians fed and dined himself. It was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land.”
These new settlers learned how to grow and cook corn from Native Americans. Corn soon became a staple at almost every meal. Many dishes used the word Indian in the name, as a way of describing a dish using corn meal.
Other Colonial and Southern favorites:
Green Corn Pudding
Indian Corn Sticks