Thanksgiving Science

from: Christopher Columbus
20 Nov 2006

Thanksgiving Science --------------- How the Turkey Got Its Name ------------------- There are a number of explanations for the origin of the name of Thanksgiving's favorite dinner guest. Some believe Christopher Columbus thought that the land he discovered was connected to India, and believed the bird he discovered (the turkey) was a type of peacock. He therefore called it 'tuka,' which is 'peacock' in Tamil, an Indian language. Though the turkey is actually a type of pheasant, one can't blame the explorer for trying. The Native American name for turkey is 'firkee'; some say this is how turkeys got their name. Simple facts, however, sometimes produce the best answers—when a turkey is scared, it makes a "turk, turk, turk" noise. --------------- Turkey Facts ---------------- • At one time, the turkey and the bald eagle were each considered as the national symbol of America. Benjamin Franklin was one of those who argued passionately on behalf of the turkey. Franklin felt the turkey, although "vain and silly", was a better choice than the bald eagle, which he felt was "a coward". • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the U.S. at Thanksgiving—that's one sixth of all turkeys sold in the U.S. each year. American per capita consumption of turkeys has soared from 8.3 pounds in 1975 to 18.5 pounds last year. • Last year, 2.7 billion pounds of turkey was processed in the United States. • In 1995, retail sales of turkey reached approximately $4.4 billion. They are expected to reach $4.7 billion in 2000. • Age is a determining factor in taste. Old, large males are preferable to young toms (males) as tom meat is stringy. The opposite is true for females: old hens are tougher birds. • A turkey under sixteen weeks of age is called a fryer, while a young roaster is five to seven months old. • Turkeys are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere. • Turkeys have great hearing, but no external ears. They can also see in color, and have excellent visual acuity and a wide field of vision (about 270 degrees), which makes sneaking up on them difficult. However, turkeys have a poor sense of smell (what's cooking?), but an excellent sense of taste. • Domesticated turkeys cannot fly. Wild turkeys, however, can fly for short distances at speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They can also reach speeds of 25 miles per hour on the ground. • Turkeys sometimes spend the night in trees. • Turkeys can have heart attacks: turkeys in fields near the Air Force test areas over which the sound barrier was broken were known to drop dead from the shock of passing jets • The ballroom dance known as the Turkey Trot was named for the short, jerky steps a turkey makes. --------------- How Long Do We Have To Eat Turkey? ---------------- Cooked turkey is good for about 3 or 4 days, while gravy and stuffing only make it for 1 or 2 days. Frozen turkey will keep for 4 to 6 months. The less resilient gravy and stuffing are only good for about a month after freezing. ----------------- What exactly is a Giblet? ------------------ Giblets are the edible internal parts of a fowl, including the gizzard, heart, liver, and neck. They are normally removed, placed into a plastic bag, and then reinserted into the turkey's vacant body cavity. A Southern tradition is to make gravy stock from it, while most people just give them to their dog or threaten their children with them. ---------------- What's a Gizzard? ---------------- The gizzard is a part of the turkey's stomach that helps it digest harsher items, like seeds. ------------------ What's the Point of Gobbling? -------------------- The gobble is a seasonal call that only males make. Female turkeys make a clicking noise. Males, or, toms, gobble when they hear loud noises and when they settle in for the night. One can hear a turkey gobbling up to a mile away on a quiet day. ------------------ Is There A Name for That Thing That Hangs Off a Turkey's Neck? ----------------- That flesh-like appendage is called the wattle. It can grow to great size, and is extremely elastic. Most breeders remove them at a young age. ------------------- The First Thanksgiving ------------------ The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, to commemorate the harvest reaped by the Plymouth Colony after a harsh winter. In that year Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. The colonists celebrated it as a traditional English harvest feast, to which they invited the local Wampanoag Indians. ----------------- Days of thanksgiving were celebrated throughout the colonies after fall harvests. All thirteen colonies did not, however, celebrate Thanksgiving at the same time until October 1777. George Washington was the first president to declare the holiday, in 1789. ------------------ A New National Holiday ------------------- By the mid–1800s, many states observed a Thanksgiving holiday. Meanwhile, the poet and editor Sarah J. Hale had begun lobbying for a national Thanksgiving holiday. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, looking for ways to unite the nation, discussed the subject with Hale. In 1863 he gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring the last Thursday in November a day of thanksgiving. ------------------ In 1939, 1940, and 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking to lengthen the Christmas shopping season, proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November. Controversy followed, and Congress passed a joint resolution in 1941 decreeing that Thanksgiving should fall on the fourth Thursday of November, where it remains. ----------------- Thanksgiving by the Numbers ------------------ 649 million pounds ------------ The forecast for U.S. cranberry production, up 5% from last year. Wisconsin is expected to lead all states in the production of cranberries, with 367 million pounds, followed by Massachusetts, Oregon, New Jersey, and Washington are also expected to have substantial production, ranging from 18 million to 52 million pounds. ------------------- 1.6 billion pounds ----------- The total weight of sweet potatoes—another popular Thanksgiving side dish—produced in the United States. North Carolina (688 million pounds) produced more sweet potatoes than any other state. It was followed by California (339 million pounds). Mississippi and Louisiana also produced large amounts: at least 200 million pounds each. ----------------- 998 million pounds ---------- Total pumpkin production of major pumpkin-producing states. Illinois, with a production of 457 million pounds, led the country. Pumpkin patches in California, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York also produced a lot of pumpkins: each state produced at least 70 million pounds worth. The value of all the pumpkins produced by these states was about $100 million. --------------- 2.1 billion bushels ----------- The total volume of wheat—the essential ingredient of bread, rolls and pies—produced in the United States. Kansas and North Dakota combined accounted for about 33% of the nation’s wheat production. --------------- 13.7 pounds -------------- The quantity of turkey consumed by the typical American, and if tradition be true, a hearty helping of it will be devoured at Thanksgiving time. On the other hand, per capita sweet potato consumption is 4.7 pounds. ----------- $1.00 ------------ The average cost per pound of a frozen whole turkey. ---------- 3 ----------- Number of places in the United States named after the holiday’s traditional main course. Turkey, Texas, is the most populous, with 496 residents; followed by Turkey Creek, La. (357); and Turkey, N.C. (267). There also are 16 townships around the country named "Turkey," three in Kansas.



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