The Very First Thanksgiving Menu
To celebrate the first successful corn harvest in 1621, a group of Pilgrims and Native Americans held a three-day festival that’s now known as the first Thanksgiving. While history regarding the menu is a bit murky, the bountiful feast definitely included venison and wild fowl (probably duck or geese). Wild turkeys were common at the time, so it’s likely they were served as well. And, of course, the corn that they had harvested was eaten.
Although corn was bountiful, now-traditional trimmings like sweet potatoes and potatoes were not served, since these vegetables weren’t common then. Also absent were the pumpkin and pecan pies and other sweets synonymous with today’s feasts. Dessert at the first Thanksgiving was probably limited to fruits like berries and stewed pumpkins since the Pilgrims’ sugar supply had dwindled by that fall.
Help for Newbie Cooks
When the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line opened nearly 30 years ago, six home economists fielded questions from 11,000 phone calls in its first year.
Now more than 50 professionally trained, college-educated home economists and nutritionists will answer the questions of more than 100,000 curious cooks between November and December. They help callers troubleshoot such issues as which pan to use, what to do if the turkey is on fire, and what time to start cooking the turkey so it’s ready by halftime. The most-asked question is about how to properly thaw a turkey.
Got a question? Call 1-800-BUTTERBALL or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Dough for Thanksgiving Dinner
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner in 2011, prepare to shell out a bit more money than you did for last year’s feast. The average price of a dinner for 10 will cost about 13 percent more this year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and all the trimmings will run $49.20, up from last year’s $43.47, and almost double the cost since 1991, when dinner averaged $25.95.
Blame most of the increase on the bird: A 16-pound turkey costs $21.57, or $1.35 per pound, this year. Last year, a bird of the same weight was about $1.10 per pound.
A Whole Lotta Turkey
More turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year, according to the National Turkey Federation. In 2010, 46 million of the 226 million turkeys consumed annually were eaten. Christmas and Easter came in at a distant second and third with 22 million and 19 million turkeys eaten, respectively.
But turkey is an increasingly popular year-round diet staple too. The bird has almost doubled in popularity in the United States over the last 35 years. In 1975, the average person ate 8.3 pounds per year. In 2010, people each gobbled 16.4 pounds annually.
The Case of the Missing Last Slice of Pie
Wondering what happened to that last piece of pie in the refrigerator after the big feast? Chances are the man of the house ate it. Six million men ages 35 to 54 admitted to polishing off the final slice of pie — and then denying it, according to the American Pie Council.
In other fun pie facts, one in five Americans has eaten an entire pie by themselves. That adds up to about 2,000 calories for an 8-inch pumpkin pie, around 2,500 calories for an apple pie, and up to 4,000 calories for a pecan pie.
Thirty-five percent of Americans have had pie for breakfast, 66 percent have had it for lunch, and 59 percent have eaten pie as a midnight snack.
Packing on the Holiday Pounds
Thanksgiving may kick off the notorious holiday weight gain season, but the good news is you’re probably not getting as plump as you think. Although many people fret about gaining five or 10 pounds, the average weight gain during the six-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is about one pound, according to a study from Tufts University in Boston.
However, turkey day itself can be a weight-gain landmine if you’re not careful. A typical turkey dinner has as many as 3,000 calories, according to the American Council on Exercise. In a study published in the Nutrition Journal, college students gained a little more than a pound in between the time before Thanksgiving and about two weeks later. If the students were already overweight, they gained about twice that amount.
Food Safety in Numbers
Whether you’re a top chef or not, food safety during the holidays is especially important for you and your guests. One in six Americans gets sick each year from food-borne gems, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Follow these simple by-the-numbers rules for a safe and delicious holiday.
165 degrees Fahrenheit: The temperature when turkey (and stuffing if it’s cooked inside the bird) is safe to eat, as measured with a meat thermometer.
2 hours: The maximum amount of time that food should be left at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate dishes to prevent bacteria growth.
20 seconds: How long you should wash your hands to effectively clean them and remove potentially harmful bacteria after handling raw meat. Don’t want to count? Sing “Happy Birthday” twice in your head.