Have you ever had a roast turkey on the 4th of July? Of course not! Turkeys are for Thanksgiving and Christmas. One of the reasons that we typically don’t have turkeys throughout the rest of the year is that they take a long time to cook. Plus, if you’re going to have a turkey dinner, then you need all the side dishes. That takes even longer. Bottom line: Making a turkey dinner is a marathon! This year, as you prepare your bird for the family feast, you might enjoy being the official turkey expert in the house. These are the facts that can get your there:
North American Wild Turkeys Almost Went Extinct
Wild turkeys used to roam the lands but in the early 1900s, that turkey popular nearly went extinct. In fact, the U.S. turkey population had dropped to just around 30,000 birds. In the 1940s, the surviving wild turkeys were rounded up and relocated to woodlands where they could repopulate. Today, the wild turkey population is around six million. Quite the comeback. BTW, the turkey that you’ll be cooking up was probably raised on a farm. Totally different population and always thriving!
The First Thanksgiving
There was a lot to be thankful for on that very first pilgrim Thanksgiving. Thanks to the Wampanoag tribe, the pilgrims made it through a harsh first few months and finally learned to work the land. To celebrate, there was a joint feast featuring deer, ducks and geese but not turkey. Ironic.
Honest Abe Strikes Again
The official tradition of the President giving a pardon to a turkey started when JFK was in the White House. However, he wasn’t the first President to commute a turkey’s sentence. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln’s son Tad made friends with the turkey that was intended for the White House Christmas dinner. Being the kind-hearted soul that he was, Abe granted the bird a stay of execution.
The First TV Dinner
In 1953, the Swanson food company was stuck with 260 tons of frozen turkeys. This happened when an overzealous buyer thought they could sell off the birds for the holidays. They didn’t. That’s when salesman Gerry Thomas came up with a great idea. He ordered up 5,000 special aluminum trays and set up an assembly line of workers to scoop in dressing, peas and sweet potatoes in their own compartments. The star of the tray was the sliced turkey. The packaged meals sold for 98 cents and was an instant hit. The next year, 10 million turkey TV dinners were sold.
A Turkey By Any Other Name
Turkeys were first domesticated in Central America around 800 B.C. Back then, the turkey feathers were highly sought after to use in ceremonial robes and blankets. Through the years, turkeys got different names based on their age and sex. A male turkey is a gobbler while a female turkey is a hen. Young male turkeys are jakes and young female turkeys are jennies.
And now you know.