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First Feast offers a taste of the original Thanksgiving

LEHI — Four-year-old Olivia Lambert sensed something was missing when she tried to eat the Thanksgiving meal at Lehi's Thanksgiving Point and couldn't find a fork.

"How am I going to eat?" she asked her mother, Cheryl, a Woodland Hills mother of three who had taken her family to the First Feast, a re-enactment of the Mayflower pilgrims' first Thanksgiving. Her 6-year-old brother, Timothy, was equally baffled to be drinking from a solid pewter mug instead of a glass.

They were among nearly 400 guests who attended the celebration of the harvest in the barn at Thanksgiving Point. It was the first of what is planned to become an annual tradition at Thanksgiving Point. As interest grows, the meal will be offered several times, including on the actual holiday.

"We've never done a Thanksgiving celebration before," explains Todd Maurer, marketing spokesman. "Given our name, it is not surprising that people ask us all the time about our plans for this holiday, so we decided to become the Commonwealth at Thanksgiving Point in November."

As patrons entered the barn it was apparent they weren't in Kansas anymore, let alone Lehi. Rows of cornstalks and hay bales flanked the building. Thousands of leaves covered the floors. Children were engaged in marble games and ball and stick, with pumpkins for balls. Some fed tethered turkeys. Others pet a baby calf and a goat.

The hosts wore period costumes and spouted the wisdom of the early 17th century. Massachusetts Gov. William Bradford was there, as was the famed military leader Myles Standish. The Native Americans who saved the fledgling band of settlers were also on hand to share in the feast. These players were a highlight, and when they re-enter the 21st century, they are known as the improvisational company ComedySportz.

The celebration allowed diners to witness the 17th century lifestyle first-hand and taste a replication of the first Thanksgiving. Most of what is known about the banquet comes from the first-hand accounts of Gov. Bradford and Master Edward Winslow, another colony leader. Any gaps were filled by studying English harvest home traditions.

That first company included 16 men, four women, 23 children and nine hired seamen and servants. As the governor explained to the Lehi crowd, life had been so rigorous that of the 110 in their party, only about 50 lived. The names of those in the first Thanksgiving were recorded and include many familiar today: Edward, John, Isaac and Mary. They also included names of the era: Remember Allerton, Love Brewster, Humility Cooper and Peregrine White.

The meal was tasty — particularly considering that with its emphasis on accuracy, salt and most spices were not included and pepper was too valuable to be included.

The feast began with cider and water and a heavy peasant bread called cheate. Patrons were encouraged to pull off generous chunks and lather it with butter. A bucket of fresh greens and a cheese board with fruit and nuts were also offered. The vegetables were a pungent mixture of stewed cabbage, leeks and onion, and the blander and more appealing corn pudding and stewed pudding were a welcome way to forget the vegetable medley.

Three meats — roasted pork and turkey and smoked salmon — depended on their moistness for flavor, and the mixed berry cobbler was a tart blend that made me wish for a small packet of sugar. But, hey, the emphasis was on authenticity.

Boys in the audience were brought on stage to sample warm goat's milk. Many were brave and accommodating souls, but to watch them makes it apparent that a picture really is worth a thousand words. The girls were invited to down oysters. The only taker was their Indian guide, and he later confessed that he truly hates them.

The 90-minute event seemed to please the crowd, and 9-year-old Rachel Coleman of Draper assured me the food was "really good." At $30 per adult and $18 per child, it had better be fine. Cheryl Coleman said every family should experience it at least once and she and her husband plan to do it again when their children are a little older.


Charlene Winters is a freelance writer, former food editor and food judge who — when she's not in the kitchen — works as the director of communications and marketing for BYU alumni. Contact her at charlene_winters@byu.edu.