Let me just say that there is no damned holiday that I love more than Thanksgiving! It wipes out half a work week, there’s never any gifts or guilt involved, and it has all the things that I hold in high admiration: food, family, food, parades, food, football, friends, food, and did I mention the food? Yeah, there’s some claptrap about being thankful, but really, it’s all about that turkey — peeling the crispy skin off right out of the oven, slathering gravy on some dark meat … and then a few hours later, that stuffing, gravy and turkey sandwich!
[*insert Homer Simpson-inspired “Mmm … turkey … ahhh” drooling here*]
Oh, and if there’s a more better midnight snack than the cold turkey drumstick, then I don’t know it!
That all aside, I thought I’d bring some Thanksgiving myths and legends to the table this year, something to read before slipping into tryptophanic catatonia …
Actually, there’s the first myth — that all the tryptophan in your Thankgiving turkey makes you drowsy. From the always-reliable Urban Legend Homepage, Snopes.com:
Turkey does contain tryptophan, an amino acid which is a natural sedative. But tryptophan doesn’t act on the brain unless it is taken on an empty stomach with no protein present, and the amount gobbled even during a holiday feast is generally too small to have an appreciable effect. That lazy, lethargic feeling so many are overcome by at the conclusion of a festive season meal is most likely due to the combination of drinking alcohol and overeating a carbohydrate-rich repast, as well as some other factors.
Snopes also talks about the first Thanksgiving — which was the only one for about 200 years or so — and how the menu wasn’t exactly the feast we currently enjoy —
Although contemporary accounts of the first Thanksgiving mention “wild Turkies,” the Pilgrims and Wampanoag likely feasted on a variety of other fowl, such as geese, ducks, and partridges, and even birds we no longer commonly consider as food, such as cranes, swans, and eagles.
Corn on the cob was unlikely to have been on the menu, since Indian corn was primarily kept dried by that time of year and used for grinding up into meal. The pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce we’re familiar with were absent from the table as well, since the colonists had no supply of sugar, and wheat flour may have been scarce. (The celebrants might have made something like a pudding from boiled pumpkin sweetened with honey or syrup, however.) Potatoes (mashed or otherwise) were probably also absent, as they were not common in that area at the time. Although we don’t traditionally associate seafood with Thanksgiving, the colonists may have included cod, eel, clams, lobster, and even seal in their feast.
As you might expect, there is a veritable cornucopia of other Thanksgiving myths/legends over at Snopes.com, including Black Friday being the biggest shopping day of the year (it’s not) and President Truman being the first to pardon a turkey (he wasn’t).
Speaking of other T-Day beliefs that appear to be wrong — I saw this article from the Wall Street Journal (courtesy of Fark.com) about two annual news stories that are dusted off and brought out especially for the holiday, not unlike your grandmother’s doilies: That 46 million turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving alone; and that it’s the biggest travel day of the year.
Rather than taking the numbers that are commonly presented at face value, the author digs into them a bit. First, he munches the numbers on estimated turkey consumption as presented by the National Turkey Federation, and although I don’t know if it all works out exactly (or his explanation is a bit fuzzy), his conclusion makes sense:
Based on reports from slaughterhouses, the USDA says 23% of the 270 million turkeys processed in the U.S. last year, by pounds, were drawn down in October and November of last year. That translates into 68.3 million turkeys slaughtered in those two months, assuming the birds were of average plumpness. If Americans really did eat about 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving last year, their turkey consumption on other days in October and November would have been about half the daily average the rest of the year.
Next, he cries fowl on the travel data, which appears to be a bit more cut and dry:
While the recession cut into late autumn travel last year, November hasn’t had a day in the top 35 most-traveled in years, according to DOT figures, which track the daily number of flights, not passengers. Instead, most of the busiest days for U.S. airports hit during the summer, when school is out.
Many more Americans travel by road than by air on Thanksgiving, according to AAA surveys. Yet other holidays match or even exceed Thanksgiving on the highways. In the past year, Labor Day and July Fourth each spurred roughly the same number of car trips of 50 miles or more — nearly 40 million — as this Thanksgiving is expected to, according to AAA estimates. And Christmas 2008 dwarfed all of them.
Why let the truth get in the way of old stories, right?
Of course, ultimately, none of this will have any effect on how much I enjoy this holiday. Nor does it effect my wishes to all of you to enjoy it, also! Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!