The tables of the first Thanksgiving might have been graced with a bird like the one pictured above. The English settlers bagged some kind of fowl for the feast, and the area is part of the wild turkey’s range.
Surprisingly, the first domesticated turkey came from farther south, much farther south. Details of its introduction to Europe are hazy, but apparently, this bird so closely associated in American minds with the quintessential American holiday was domesticated in today’s Mexico, Central America, and perhaps the American Southwest.
In the early 1500s, Spanish explorers took turkeys across the Atlantic. In Europe, the birds were popular, and by the middle of the century – decades before the Pilgrims – they were appearing in banquets in France, Italy, and England.
Centuries later, descendents of those birds will be the star at banquets all across America as we celebrate Thanksgiving.