Turkey for Thanksgiving?  The Tradition, History, and Tips

In America, for most people, Thanksgiving means turkey.   A roast turkey with dressing, cranberry sauce and all the trimmings is a time-honored tradition that many of us associate with the first Pilgrim harvest feast.

However, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, historians have no evidence that turkey was even served at that dinner!

When the journals of one of the pilgrims living in the early days of Plymouth, Edward Winslow, were rediscovered and  reprinted after 200 years, readers in the mid-1850s associated the idea of fall wild turkey hunting with Thanksgiving. A popular publication, Godey’s Lady’s Book began publishing turkey recipes.

When Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day a holiday in 1863, the Thanksgiving turkey dinner tradition began.

Despite what you may have heard, Benjamin Franklin did not suggest replacing the bald eagle with the wild turkey as America’s national bird. However, there is a grain of truth to the story. It grew out of a comment in a letter Franklin wrote to his daughter, criticizing the sketch of the eagle on the Golden Seal. Franklin felt it looked more like a turkey.

If a small turkey is still too large for your holiday dinner, remember that cooked turkey also freezes well so you could also freeze slices to enjoy later.  Other options include turkey breasts or a stuffed turkey roll. For a new twist on turkey, make a small turkey pot pie with cranberry relish. Create a healthy turkey stir fry with water chestnuts and broccoli for added nutrition and crunch.

The myth that eating turkey will make you sleepy is just that. A myth. The idea that Tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey causes drowsiness was mentioned in a 1997 episode of Seinfeld. Yet science doesn’t support the turkey/sleep connection.

Your Thanksgiving meat doesn’t have  to be turkey. Consider trying Cornish game hen, quail or even a small ham as an option for smaller Thanksgiving meals.

Turkeys aren’t always tender when you roast them. But there is a simple way to make sure that your Thanksgiving turkey will come out of the oven easy to slice and tender to eat. It takes a little advance preparation but isn’t difficult or time consuming.

Here is a video that will help you create a moist delicious Thanksgiving turkey.

If you are planning to stay home rather than visit family or have a child or friend who can’t be with you, consider sending them a Thanksgiving gift basket

So whether you celebrate alone, just the two of you, are with a group, whether you have turkey or something else on the dinner table, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We have much to be thankful for.

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