On my lasr blog I answered a question about how long it took to write a blog, yeah, this one took some time and research. I hope you enjoy it.
The Pilgrims may not have eaten turkey… but they definitely ate a ton of shrimp and deer. At the first Thanksgiving — 1621 in Plymouth — there’s no hard evidence that anyone ate any turkey. In the best account of the first Thanksgiving (a book called “Mourt’s Relations: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth” by a colonist named Edward Winslow), there’s no mention at all of turkey.
Records show that that the Pilgrims ate “wild fowl”… but that could mean duck, geese, whatever.
What did the pilgrims eat? A lot of venison (deer) and shellfish.
If you’re wondering how turkey became associated with Thanksgiving, it’s because of two factors. One: Wild turkeys were all over New England back then, so they were an easy option. And two: Turkeys were extremely practical. A turkey was a good family meat because one bird can serve a lot of people. And they don’t produce milk like cows or eggs like chickens, so they didn’t have another utility to the colonists.
Thanksgiving wasn’t an official public holiday until Lincoln. This is pretty incredible, and I had absolutely no idea. Thanksgiving wasn’t an official public holiday until Lincoln took a break from, ya know, Civil War to make it one in 1863.
Before 1863, presidents would either declare it a holiday or not, based on how they were feeling. Thomas Jefferson never proclaimed a Thanksgiving celebration. James Madison proclaimed a couple, but neither of them was in the fall. And so it went until Lincoln stepped up and made it an official holiday on an official date.
The first Thanksgiving involved no cranberry sauce or sweet potatoes. The Pilgrims ate cranberries, but not cranberry sauce. Or that awesome stuff that looks like a crimson can I love to spread all over my turkey.
Cranberries were everywhere, and easy. But sugar… which is arguably an even more important ingredient in cranberry sauce than the cranberries themselves… was a huge luxury good at the time. Also… historical evidence doesn’t make any reference to cranberry sauce until 1663, an entire generation later than the first Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin pie didn’t become a staple until the second Thanksgiving. There’s no mention of pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving, and it would’ve been tough to pull off… the butter, flour and sugar for the crust were all in short supply.
But there IS a record of pumpkin pie at the second Thanksgiving where, apparently, some Pilgrims decided that it was worth paying more money and allocating scarce ingredients to have pumpkin pie.
I personally don’t think that was a good choice. To me, pumpkin pie is simply a whipped cream delivery system (much like how French fries are a ketchup delivery system). I prefer sweet potatoe pie.
Speaking of sweet potatoes, they too were also were absent from the first Thanksgiving… because there weren’t any to be found. The Pilgrims didn’t have access to any potatoes, sweet or regular, so they had a completely potato-free diet. No wonder the mortalty rate of the first settlers were so high.
The Detroit Lions are the reason there’s football on Thanksgiving, at least my favorite professional football team is good for something! The Detroit Lions are also the reason a lot of other teams have gotten easy wins on Thanksgiving. The NFL games that are now an indispensable part of Thanksgiving started back in 1934. That year, a guy named G.A. Richards bought the franchise… which, at the time, was called the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans… and moved it to Detroit. In order to compete with the Tigers for a market share of Detroit’s sports fans, he had to get creative.
So, he decided to schedule one of their games that season for Thanksgiving, against the defending world champion Chicago Bears. The game sold out, it was broadcast nationwide on NBC radio, it was a huge success… and the tradition stuck. The only years off were six years during World War Two.
Green bean casserole is only 53 years old! To my generation, there is no such thing as life without green bean casserole. After all, it’s classic American ingenuity: Take a healthy vegetable that doesn’t taste that good, surround it with unhealthy ingredient after unhealthy ingredient and boom — vegetables that we all want to eat.
The green bean casserole was founded in 1955 by the people at Campbell Soup. The official reason: They were just trying to make up new recipes for their annual Campbell’s cookbook. The probable actual reason: They realized that no one is dumb enough to buy Cream of Mushroom soup without a good reason, so they got creative and it worked.
Campbell’s now estimates they sell $20 million worth of cream of mushroom just to people making green bean casseroles. (My estimate of the total sales combining that along with people buying it to enjoy the soup: $20,000,013.)
Black Friday was created by department stores… Cyber Monday is a complete myth. Since the beginning of department stores there have been Christmas season sales. Since statistics showed that most people did not do their Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving, business leaders feared they would lose money, especially during the Depression, because there were only 24 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They asked Franklin Roosevelt to make Thanksgiving one week earlier. President Roosevelt ignored those concerns in 1933, but when Thanksgiving once again threatened to fall on the last day of November in 1939, FDR reconsidered the request and moved the date of Thanksgiving up one week. Thanksgiving 1939 would be held, President Roosevelt proclaimed, on November 23rd and not November 30th.
The term “Black Friday” started in the 1960s in Philadelphia which, for a long time, was the mall capital of the world. The “black” in Black Friday refers to a store selling so much stuff that day that it gets its profits out of the red and into the black for the year.
Now… Black Friday and its success has decades of hard numbers and empirical evidence to back it up. This whole Cyber Monday thing… where online retailers offer their big Christmas sales on the Monday following Thanksgiving… is a complete and utter myth.
It’s like when Hallmark wanted to sell more cards so they invented Sweetest Day. There’s no evidence that people do more online shopping on the Monday after Thanksgiving than on any other day in the Christmas season. In fact, according to most studies, Mondays in December tend to see more online sales than that Monday in late November.
Turkey is a mediocre source of tryptophan. Inevitably, during Thanksgiving dinner, someone takes a huge bite of turkey and laments, “Whoo, doggies. I’m going to be asleep soon, eating all this tryptophan.”
(Well, maybe they leave out the “whoo, doggies” part. But the sentiment remains.)
Sadly… this is a myth. Turkey does contain tryptophan… but not that much. And its ratio of tryptophan to protein is rock bottom. Foods that have more tryptophan than turkey: Egg whites, cod, soybeans, Parmesan and cheddar cheese, sesame seeds, pork, chicken and caribou. (Caribou?)
What really makes you tired after Thanksgiving dinner?
(1) Eating a ton of food.
(2) You’re lazy.
(3) The Lions game is over by half time…
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!