Jon Sullivan of pdphoto.org took this picture of a wild turkey in Zion National Park, Utah.
According to Wired.com, the average turkey has gone from 13 pounds in 1929 to 29 pounds in 2007 and the trend is continuing upward. In another 50 years you will need a roasting pan the size of a bathtub to cook your turkey. Good luck getting that in and out of the oven.
The same story goes on to say that corn today is probably 6 times sweeter than the corn the Pilgrims ate at the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrim’s corn was about 10% sugar and sweet corn today is 20 to 25%. The corn the Pilgrims ate is comparable to the corn we grow today for animal feed.
There is a 15 acre field behind my house that is planted in livestock feed corn every other year. The other year it is planted in soybeans. I have never tried to eat any of it. The corn was harvested about two weeks ago, so I can’t try an ear now, but maybe in two years, as a scientific experiment, I will try one and let you know what I think.
Apparently the Pilgrims didn’t have potatoes at the first Thanksgiving, but if they did, they would have been rounder, higher in sugar and have less starch than the potatoes of today. The increased starch and less sugar of present day potatoes make better potato chips and french fries. The Wired article, “Give Thanks? Science Supersized Your Turkey Dinner” was written by Alexis Madrigal.
Here is a link to an article by Karen Ravn in the Los Angeles Times called “How Turkeys Grew So Big.” She explains how turkeys today came to be all white instead of brown, black and other colors, like the wild turkeys that you may see roaming around your neighborhood. I often see small groups of 5 or 6 turkeys walking around where I live in Washington County, New York. There go some now. Just kidding.
Kimberly Crandell has an article called, “Did Science Build a Better Turkey“, on Livescience.com. She writes about an alternative to the standard white turkey that we normally eat today. It’s called a Heritage Turkey. She says that there were about 8,800 Heritage Turkeys in a 2006 U.S. census. Compare that to the 267 million turkeys that are sold in the United States each year.
She also explains how the “super turkeys” of today came to be. The “super turkeys” aren’t so super. Their large breasts cause problems walking and reproducing. Forget about leaping tall buildings with a single bound. They can’t even leap over the the turkey coop.
President Abraham Lincoln, on October 3, 1863, proclaimed the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. You can read the entire proclamation here on the National Park Service website. The proclamation was actually written by Secretary of State, William Seward. You can read about that here.
Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting article about the Pilgrims that we associate with the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Most of the story is about how they got to the New World and not about Thanksgiving, but did you know that Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Roosevelt, Orson Welles, Marilyn Monroe, Hugh Hefner and George W. Bush are all descendants of the Pilgrims from the Mayflower? I didn’t.
You can take a turkey quiz here at Discovery.com. Did you know that wild turkeys can fly as fast as 55 miles per hour for short distances?
Here is a link to a story about the first Thanksgiving on History.com. Apparently the Pilgrims didn’t have forks. Who knew? They used knives, spoons and their fingers instead.
When I sit down to dinner on Thanksgiving, regardless of where I am, I will take a moment and think about all of the people that I have shared this day with over the years. If someone asks me on Thanksgiving, what am I thankful for, I will say I am thankful for them.
Many old and familiar faces will no longer be sitting around the table. Some of them have not been there for many years. They will always be remembered because they will always live in my heart.
I will also remember, and thank, the wonderful people, past and present, who have always cooked up a storm so that I could have a wonderful feast on Thanksgiving.