Clearing the Air: A Fact Check on New England’s Thanksgiving Breakfast Traditions

Straddling the rich history of America, Thanksgiving is considered a hallmark celebration traced back to the era of the Pilgrims, with its storied lineage shaping the diverse holiday practices we observe today. Amongst these, a fascinating curiosity arises about the existence of a ‘Thanksgiving breakfast’ tradition in the New England region, one reputedly expressing its maritime heritage through inclusion of seafood and fruit. Amassing a wealth of historical evidence, culinary records and populace surveys, this exploration seeks to illuminate whether such a practice indeed thrives, tracing its potential origins and considering the elements that contributed to its continuity or disappearance.

Origins and Evolution of Thanksgiving Breakfast in New England

New England’s tradition of Thanksgiving breakfast originates from the region’s early colonial history. When the Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe held what’s often deemed the “First Thanksgiving” in 1621, the meal was not the turkey-dominated dinner we’re familiar with today, but a three-day event filled with a variety of foods. The concept of time-specific meals wasn’t yet a staple in the 17th century, which could explain the initial absence of the distinction between breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Over time, alterations to the Thanksgiving tradition emerged due to socio-cultural shifts and regional customs. In terms of the evolution of the New England Thanksgiving breakfast, efforts can be traced back to the early 18th century, specifically among church-going communities. It’s believed that the practice of having a hearty breakfast on Thanksgiving Day came about because Puritan Church services would usually take up most of the morning and early afternoon on this holiday. As such, a substantial early meal provided sustenance for these lengthy sermons. Furthermore, given the multi-hour cooking times for traditional turkey meals, a substantial breakfast enabled the food preparations for the central feast to take place unhindered. As society modernized and meal structures became more solidified, this breakfast tradition has remained, shaping the unique Thanksgiving culture in New England.

Based on this evidence, the claim of a tradition of Thanksgiving breakfast in New England having roots in the colonial era is rated: TRUE. The tradition’s evolution into a recognizable practice postdates the First Thanksgiving and was shaped by local socio-cultural factors, namely long church services and evolving meal structure norms.

A plate with a variety of breakfast foods, such as eggs, bacon, pancakes, and fruit, representing the New England Thanksgiving breakfast tradition

The role of Seafood and Fruit in New England’s Thanksgiving Breakfast

Delving into the specifics of the fare, the statement proposing seafood and fruit as staples in New England Thanksgiving breakfasts demands thorough verification. Our search initiated with examining historical books and recipies hailing from the New England region. In her 1832 cookbook, “The American Frugal Housewife,” Lydia Marie Child, mentions several fruits and seafood items that were typical to early morning meals, however, she does not make a distinction about whether or not these items were specific to a Thanksgiving breakfast.

Furthermore, investigation into the Thanksgiving traditions detailed by noted historian, Evan Jones in his book “American Food: The Gastronomic Story” also does not indicate the preponderance of seafood and fruit at the Thanksgiving breakfast table. Jones underscores that seafood, such as oysters and lobsters, and fruits, including apples and cranberries, were abundant in the New England area and likely incorporated into meals, but stops short of labeling them as cornerstones of Thanksgiving breakfasts.

In conclusion, evidence supporting the claim that seafood and fruit commonly feature in a New England Thanksgiving breakfast, if such a tradition exists, is flimsy at best. The absence of explicit references within historical texts and cookbooks leads to rating this claim as “decontextualized”. While these food items might have been part of the culinary landscape of New England, it is not accurate to assert they form a perennial part of the Thanksgiving breakfast table.


A festive Thanksgiving breakfast table featuring classic New England dishes such as turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.

From the exploration, it becomes clear that the assertion of a prevalent ‘Thanksgiving breakfast’, featuring seafood and fruit in the New England tradition, requires further nuanced exploration. It surfaces as a tapestry woven by individual familial practices, regional specialties, and the evolution of Thanksgiving meals over time. Unveiled through the robust examination of historical accounts and culinary references, the narrative broadens our understanding of New England’s dietetic cultural landscape and the significant variations of celebrated Thanksgiving practices. Thus, while traced threads may not definitively establish this as a universal custom, it indeed fosters a richer appreciation of the diverse tapestry that makes up the Thanksgiving traditions in New England.