Today is American Thanksgiving, and usually that means the nation will spend most of its afternoon dining on a massive traditional feast of turkey, stuffing, and all the fixings while surrounded by family. Although the basics of a Thanksgiving meal are somewhat universal, the beauty of the day is how unique every single meal across the nation is due to the incredible variations in recipes and other holiday traditions.
One tradition we’ve seen at our dinners is the post-dinner conversation, which we thought we’d try to contribute to this year. The following are some little known facts about Thanksgiving for you to drop into your conversations this evening.
The Pilgrims May Not Have Eaten Turkey
The best account of the first Thanksgiving comes to us from William Bradford, and doesn’t mention turkey specifically. It does mention wild fowl, which is understood to include turkey, duck, geese, and swans. In all likelihood the main protein was actually venison.
No Apples, Pumpkin Pie or Potatoes Either
That’s right; pilgrims didn’t have apples or potatoes. Pumpkin was served but not in a pie (the pie showed up at the second Thanksgiving). Can you imagine your meal without these three foods?
Your Thanksgiving Is Smaller Than The First One
Unless you have a surprisingly huge family, it’s likely that all the food you prepared today wouldn’t suffice for the crowd that showed up at the first one. In all, more than 100 people dined at First Thanksgiving in 1621. The event lasted three days.
Tryptophan Is (Sort Of) A Myth
Tryptophan exists, to be clear. What we’re talking about here is the prevailing belief that post-Thanksgiving drowsiness is a result of the tryptophan in turkey. This is a misconception: turkey does contain tryptophan but in comparatively small amounts when considering other foods and proteins.
The drowsiness is more likely attributed to the sheer amount of food consumed on Thanksgiving and more specifically, to the carbohydrates typically present in the feast.
Test Tube Turkeys
Commercial turkey production is quite literally a science due to the popularity of the birds in North American cuisine, and this holiday in particular. The most widely-used breed of domesticated turkey is the Broad Breasted White, which through targeted breeding are born with shorter breast bones, huge breasts, and shorter legs than standard turkeys. This renders them unable to breed without human intervention.
Yep, they’re artificially inseminated.
This is one reason cited for the growing popularity of Hertige birds. Heritage Turkeys must be naturally mating (among other requirements like a longer life span and slower growth rate).
Thanksgiving Was Made A Holiday (Twice)
It wasn’t until 1789 that Thanksgiving was officially recognized as a holiday. George Washington made this designation, but did so only for that year.
It wasn’t until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation making Thanksgiving an ongoing national holiday.