The turkey needs a makeover. Ol’ Tom has been inaccurately portrayed for generations, and it’s time someone set the record straight.
Let’s begin with the myth about the first Thanksgiving dinner. A number of historians have made solid cases that the iconic multi-course meal involving the Pilgrims and Indians (not yet known as Native Americans) never happened.
According to author Andrew F. Smith, the story was concocted and included in history books to “create a sense of common heritage” for the children of immigrants who were surging into the country from all over the world. In other words, it was a “feel-good” story.
In 1777, when the Continental Congress declared victory at Saratoga, that “Thanksgiving” was celebrated not with turkey and all the trimmings, but rather with rice topped with a tablespoon of vinegar.
Long story short: The tradition of having turkey on the Thanksgiving table is much younger than we’ve been led to believe.
But there’s no question that America raises a lot of turkeys, with most of the production centered in the South. Why there? It has to do with that region’s tradition of tobacco farming.
It seems that the No. 1 enemy of the tobacco plant is the hornworm, and it turns out that turkeys love to munch on hornworms as much as we humans love to munch on Snickers bars.
Someone did the math, and we now know that 50 turkeys can protect 100,000 tobacco plants with their hornworm-eating habit.
Once his hornworm duties are completed, however, a turkey faces an unpleasant fate. Yes, we’re talking about the roasting pan, in which Tom may spend anywhere from 165 to 360 minutes, depending on his size – the larger the bird, the longer the oven time. In the end, there is a price for gluttony, even among turkeys.
Speaking of gluttony, in the 34 years from 1970 to 2004, the average American’s annual consumption of turkey jumped from 8.1 to 17.4 pounds.
Perhaps that eye-opening piece of information provides a catch phrase for turkey’s much-needed makeover. May we suggest: “Turkey – it’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore.”