(The Holiday Cheat Sheet)
Above all else, Thanksgiving is a time to get together with family and friends, eat until you’re nearly sick, watch some football, drink too much and argue about things no one actually cares about. Below you’ll find a guide to becoming the best at Thanksgiving, use it wisely and share it with everyone you know who won’t be at your dinner.
Arm yourself with Relevant Useless Facts
The one topic you can be sure to come up on Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving. If you want to be awesome, you should come armed to the teeth with more useless facts than your competition. Remember: It’s only trivial if you don’t know the answer.
Turkey is not Valium
Everyone knows turkey makes you sleepy, everyone knows it’s because turkey is chopped full of that tryptophan drug. Everyone is wrong.
Tryptophan is found in just about any protein-based food. In fact many common foods (including pork chops) have more tryptophan in it than turkey. Turkey is nearly identical in tryptophan content as chicken and beef.
Tryptophan (g/100 g of food)
|Egg white, dried||1.00|
|Atlantic Cod, Dried||0.93|
If turkey makes you sleepy, so does everything else you eat. Perhaps your food coma was caused by having eaten over 4,500 calories from three heaping plates of food covered in liquid fat?
History (As written by the Victors)
Q: What is the name of the ship the pilgrims came over on?
Q: Who captained it?
A: Christopher Jones
Q: When was the first Thanksgiving?
A: There’s a bunch of argument around it, but the holiday is almost entirely based on the Pilgrim’s feast of 1621.
Q: Who were the Indians?
A: The pilgrims were greeted by Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe, estimated to be about 30,000 strong.
Q: Where the Indians and Pilgrims Friendly?
A: The 102 pilgrims landed in 1620, about half of them died over the winter causing the Wampanoag to teach the 56 survivors how to cultivate corn and survive their new environment. The 1621 feast was shared with the Indians as friends.
This peace did not last long. Eventually the son of Massasoit, Metacomet (known as Philip to the white man) fought back against the pilgrims encroaching on their land, eventually sparking “King Philip’s War”. Despite almost retreating in defeat, the pilgrims prevailed killing the Wampanoag with reckless abandon until the tribe’s numbers were reduced to less than 2,000. The survivors were then enslaved.
Q: Did they eat turkey at the “first” Thanksgiving?
A: Probably not. The Indians brought deer, they had corn for sure and went out to find wild fowl to add to the menu. There was fish and all the local wild/cultivated vegetables you could find in Massachusetts in 1621.
Born Grown in the USA
Unlike most things we buy nowadays, the staples of a classic Thanksgiving dinner are 100% American. While the whole world knows the best potatoes come from Idaho who knows where the best cranberries come from? The answer is you.
*Each image above shows the percentage of consumed foods produced by the top three states, except for pumpkins where Illinois owns it.
Thanksgiving Holiday Timeline
Everyone loves a holiday (okay everyone loves not having to work), but do you have any idea when Thanksgiving became a holiday, or why it’s on the fourth Thursday of November?
Back Seat Cheffing
The majority of people aren’t in charge of cooking a thing (only one of you can host), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what’s what. How else can you give advice and point out everything the chef is doing wrong?
- All meat should be cooked from room temperature. Let your turkey sit for about 4 hours before putting it into the oven.
- A turkey needs to be cooked from start to finish. If you try to half cook it, then finish it on the next day, you’re going to kill people.
- A turkey typically comes with a bunch of disgusting innards stuck inside the hole. Don’t throw these out, the neck and giblets should be used to start a stock for the gravy or saved to use in a turkey soup.
- If you want to cook a moist turkey every time, brine that bird (soak it in a salty liquid). It takes some planning: you should brine for 8-24 hours before cooking.
- Make sure the turkey (measured at the thickest part of the thigh, not hitting any bone) is 165 degrees Fahrenheit before calling it cooked.
- Pitch a tent: this goes for almost all meat. Never carve up your bird as soon as she comes out of the oven, tent it in aluminum foil for 15-20 minutes before carving.
- You can easily get a bunch of delicious dark meat by carving the drumsticks. Just be sure no one was hoping to Flintstone it.
Stuff it up the Turkey’s Ass!
- Ignore the haters; stuff that bird to busting with stuffing. Fill it like a Wal-Mart cart on black Friday. Just don’t hurt yourself trying to pack it into a solid block of bread; the stuffing needs a little space to breathe.
- There is no reason to add meat to your stuffing. It’s a side dish for meat, to be covered in liquid meat.
- Make more stuffing that you can possibly fit into the bird. Put the rest in a casserole dish (tightly sealed) and cook it separately. Mix this in with the rest before serving (or don’t, for any lurking vegetarians).
It’s all Gravy
- If you’re cooking a turkey, there is no reason to make fake gravy. Throw away all mixes and packages of powdered lies.
- Start with a roux; it’s the basis of almost every sauce.
- Other than the roux, never use “fresh” water. Use the water we’ve been boiling the giblets in for flavor, and use the water from the boiling potatoes for the starch.
- Keep it simple: gravy is made from meat juices, water, flour and seasoning.
- Stir it up! You need the heat high enough to brown and thicken the gravy, but you need to constantly stir to keep the gravy from burning on the bottom of the pan.
- Gravy is almost entirely made from liquid fat. That’s the point of it. No matter what you read you cannot skim the fat from the drippings and still make great gravy. If you don’t want fat, don’t eat gravy.
- If your gravy is too greasy, you need more flour. Add slowly, stir constantly: no lumps.
The Cranberries (sauce, not songs)
The majority of you buy cranberry sauce, but if you do choose to make your own from the tart little berries you’re going to need to know how to tell if they’re ripe. Use the Snoop test and drop ’em like it’s hot!
If they’re ripe they’ll bounce. If there’s any argument about whether or not they bounced, they’re not ripe.
Get your Slice of the Pie
Pie at Thanksgiving is as American as apple pie. It’s a scientific fact that 3.14 out of every 4 people love pie; the only question is what type of pie you should go with. Here are America’s most popular flavors of Thanksgiving pie.
What it’s Really all About
Despite all of the arguments over what Thanksgiving is, and exactly when and why it started, at the end of the day all that really matters is spending the evening with the people you love. Thanksgiving is about family and friends.
Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what you do have, instead of yearning for everything you do not. It’s the one day of the year where nothing matters but football, the food, the drink and the people we get to share it with.
Have a happy, and safe, thanksgiving, America.
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