You looking for an answer, Joey? Or an encyclopedia?
To understand how people did things you need to know who they were, what their world-view was, and the technology available to them. Not always an easy task. But a lot of your questions become self-answerable just by knowing those things.
British North America divided into four distinct cultural matrixes. Unfortunately, due to how history is taught in school, and the fact that virtually every popular historian (not to mention some trained historians who should know better), we all grow up with a mental image of just one of them. More times than not, when teachers and popular historians say things like "colonial" or "early American," they're talking about New England.
So, let's look at the folks who settled the Bay Colony. The pilgrims did not just leave Europe; they fled it because of religious persecution. They got on a boat, which took them to the wrong place, at the wrong time of year. And they didn't know anything about hunting and farming; they were artisans from the big cities. No wonder they starved that first New England winter. If the Natives hadn't been friendly, New England would still belong to them.
Contrast that with the people who settled Virginia (historically, the cultural matrix called the Chesapeake). They weren't fleeing anything. They were gentlemen adventurers who came here to get rich. And the easiest way to make money in the New World was to grow something. They already knew all they needed to know about farming. And they did it in a much more clement environment. There rarely was any sort of food deprivation in Virginia. If you reached out your hand the land and the sea happily fed you. When there were problems it had to do with political and other reasons, not because there was a true lack of food.
So, for the Pilgrims, the primary task was adapting what they knew to the conditions and materials encountered. They had pots and pans and other cookware. And they had cabins and hearths to cook in. But, as an example of adapting, they would have initially hung those pots from a wooden lug pole, rather than a crane, cuz metal was scarce and expensive. Outdoors they’d have hung them from a wooden tripod.
Another part of the problem is that much of what we "know" about those days comes from untrained observers who jotted a line or two in their journals. The classic case is Three Sisters planting. A typical observation would be, "The Natives plant their corn, beans, and pompions together in the same field." While we can interpret that several ways, we don't really know what “plant together” means in that context.
While the Pilgrims did learn much from the Natives, it's likely they would have adapted local ingredients to the cooking styles they were familiar with, as well as fusing the two cuisines.
One other thing to keep in mind: It’s taken as a truism among anthropologists that when two cultures come in conflict the more efficient one will prevail. So, contrary to popular wisdom, it was not firearms that destroyed the Native culture. Rather, as soon as the first Native woman saw a metal pot, their lifestyle was doomed.
When did the New England Natives acquire metal cookware? I dunno for sure. But for a realistic answer, correlate the French trade in Canada to when the Pilgrims settled. Metal cookware was an integral part of that trade. And the north/south “caravan” routes were fully established long before European contact.
FWIW, French fisherman were working the coast of Nova Scotia as early as 1504, and, according to food historian Patricia Mitchell, it wasn’t long after that they started trading bits of metal, iron kettles, and axes to the Natives in exchange for furs. So it’s possible the New England tribes were familiar with these products before the Pilgrims landed.
hides just weren't heavy duty enough
Not necessarily so. A common cooking method among natives was to boil food in hides. A hide was hung to form a bag, and filled with water and foodstuff. The rocks, heated in a fire, would be dropped into the bag to heat the water.
I’ve made bean bread that way, using Cherokee recipes, and it’s just as slow a process as it sounds.
.....did they bake/roast by burying things in the ground do you think?
Not baking, if you’re thinking breadstuffs. But pit roasting proteins was common, and the Pilgrims no doubt adopted that technique, especially for large items that wouldn’t fit in a Dutch oven. They also adapted it using equipment available to them. The bean pot, for instance.
also, yes there were cranberry bogs, but no sugar..maybe added fruit like apples?....
There were other sweeteners available. Maple syrup and sugar, for instance, date from pre-contact. And a sweet syrup was made from pumpkin---but likely wasn’t available, yet, at the first Thanksgiving.
Here’s something that is pure speculation: Given the availability of sweeteners, and given the British fascination with puddings, it’s quite possible that cranberries might have been used to make a fruit pudding. I’ve never seen any references to it, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. I can easily see such a dish made with cranberries, cornmeal, and maple sugar. Or, leave out the cornmeal, throw in some nuts, and you have a cranberry compote---near enough to cranberry sauce to make no never mind.
did the pilgrims even know how to hunt, or did the indians show them how?.....
See above. One irony of the first-winter starvation was that they were surrounded by food. They just didn’t know it, nor how to harvest it.
how did they cook the clams and oysters do you suppose?
Europeans were not unfamiliar with shellfish. The surprise was the incredible quantity of it---oyster beds that stretched for miles, for instance. So they likely ate them both raw and cooked, as they had done in Europe.
...and who was the first one to try that?...
A very brave man!
that rabbit in mustard sauce recipe from here might have come in handy! oops, forgot no condiments! actually, that's another question...what about condiments?
A good question, and one that depends on how you define condiments. For instance, sumac, as a cooking ingredient, was all but unknown in Europe, but was commonly used as a citrus substitute in the New World.
Salt and pepper most certainly were among the things brought from Europe on the Mayflower and other early ships. Mustard seed might easily have been part of the ladings as well. It’s not something I’ve ever looked into.
As a rule, Native American foodstuffs were much blander than European. Settlers really preferred bold flavors. But I have no idea when spices where being imported into New England, whereas they were being used in Virginia almost from the start.
Whew! I warned you there weren't short answers.