Baby naming customs are fascinating, and baby names are also
Only one more day until that most gluttonous of holidays: Thanksgiving. I can feel the food coma lurking around corners, behind furniture, following me everywhere I go. It will catch me. It’ll catch you, too. Here are 17 things you might not have known about traditional Thanksgiving foodstuffs, with a slight bias toward turkey (because duh) and potatoes, because holy moly, the history of the potato is actually really, really interesting.
1) The go-to meat centerpiece for Thanksgiving used to be pork ribs, not turkey. Pigs were usually slaughtered in November, because it was just getting cold enough for nature to provide some refrigeration, so Thanksgiving was the best time to break into the year’s first bacon. Plus, wild turkeys just wandered around ready to be slaughtered and eaten back then, so pork was more of a special occasion food.
2) Historically, lobster, venison, and chicken have all been popular alternatives to turkey as well.
3) While the pumpkins is native to North America, specifically Mexico, pumpkin pie became a thing thanks to the Brits.
4) Among Cool Whip’s ingredients are Polysorbate 60 (a major ingredient in some condom lubes) and Sorbitan Monostearate, sometimes used as hemorrhoid cream. Yum. It was invented by William A. Mitchell, the same guy who gave the world Tang, quick set Jell-O, and Pop Rocks.
5) The whole “turkey makes you sleepy” thing is a myth. While turkey does contain tryptophan, its levels aren’t any higher than what can be found in any other poultry. If you’re feeling sluggish after chowing down on four plates of food and collapsing on the sofa to watch football… well, it’s probably because you chowed down on four plates of food and collapsed on the sofa to watch football. Digestion takes energy, which leads to grogginess. And the alcohol you probably imbibed didn’t help.
6) We have Thanksgiving to thank for TV dinners. Back in 1953, Swanson overestimated the demand for turkey and was left with 260 extra pounds of the stuff, which they had to keep constantly moving in refrigerated train cars like a boring retro version of Snowpiercer. Swanson salesman Gerry Thomas “liberated” an airline food tray and had the idea to split it into compartments for different types of foods. A year later, Swanson had sold 10 million TV dinners.
9) The potato was the first vegetable to be grown in space. ALL HAIL OUR ALIEN POTATO OVERLORDS!
10) When the potato first made its way to Europe throughout the 1500-1600s, many were suspicious of it because of its overseas origin and the fact that it looks kinda like poisonous nightshade plants, so people thought it was created by witches or devils. Harsh. In Russia, the Orthodox Church resisted Catherine the Great’s plans to get her people on board the potato train (“They’re good for you! They’re easy to plant! They’re not Satan plants!”) by arguing that they’re not in the Bible, so woooooah, dangerous. That’s not fair. No wonder our alien potato overlords are planning to kill us.
11) France was only brought around to the potato way of life when Marie Antoinette took to wearing potato blossoms in her hair. Hubby Louis XVI went for the most understated potato-blossom-in-the-buttonhole routine.
12) But my favorite historical-people-being-scared-of-potatoes anecdote (who knew there would be so many and that they would be so delightful?!) involves Prussia’s Frederick the Great, who planted a royal garden of potatoes and then ordered it to be heavily guarded, the logic being that people would assume they were valuable. It worked: Local peasants snuck into the garden and stole potatoes that they then planted themselves, just as Freddie wished.
11) The turducken–a chicken stuffed inside a duck, which is in turn stuffed inside a turkey–might not be the classiest Thanksgiving foodstuff, but how about the rôti sans pareil (hon hon hon!)? The dish, created in 1807 by French gastronomist Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de La Reynière, is a veritable Russian nesting doll containing (from small to large), a garden warbler, an ortolan bunting, a lark, a thrush, a quail, a lapwing, a plover, a partridge, a woodcock, a teal, a guinea fowl, a dick, a chicken, a pheasant, a goose, a turkey, and, finally, a bustard.
12) The green bean casserole was created in 1955 by the Campbell Soup Company.
13) The cranberry is one of only three major fruits native to North America. The others are the blueberry and the concord grape.
14) Genetically speaking, humans are 75% identical to pumpkins.
15) One in five Americans have polished off an entire pie by themselves, and 35% of Americans say they’ve had pie for breakfast. Only 35%? Jesus, step it up, people.
16) A sweet potato isn’t a potato. It isn’t a yam, either, even though in North America the names “sweet potato” and “yam” are used interchangably. The two are from completely different biological families, and sweet potatoes are thought to originate from Central or South America, while yams are from Africa and Asia. And there’s a fourth plant, the oca, called a yam in New Zealand. Plants are confusing.
17) Only male turkeys gobble. What do female turkeys do? CACKLE. I like the sound of that.