This fall likely looks a bit different than previous holiday seasons. Maybe you’re serving up a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all the fixings. Or perhaps you’re trimming things down because you’re planning a smaller gathering. Whatever the case, you can still make it memorable.
Here are some interesting tidbits and tips to inspire you during turkey season.
Why We Eat Turkey at Thanksgiving
In America, turkey is almost synonymous with the Thanksgiving holiday. 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 Edward Winslow, one of the Plymouth pilgrims, resurfaced and were 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.
Ready for some turkey trivia? Here are some fun facts about turkey to share over Thanksgiving dinner…or Thanksgiving dessert.
Turkey All Year
According to the National Turkey Federation, in 2019, in the United States, 5.3 billion pounds of turkey was consumed – that’s 16.1 pounds of turkey per person!
America’s National Bird?
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.
Tons of Turkey
The United States produced 244.8 million turkeys in 2019.
The price of turkey was lower in 2019 than it was seven years before! In 2012, the average wholesale price per pound of a frozen turkey was $1.06. In 2019, it was $.89 per pound.
Turkeys have over 20 different vocal sounds, and the male’s “gobble” sound carries up to 20 miles.
Does Eating Turkey Make You Tired?
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.
Is Turkey a Healthy Meat?
In addition to being delicious and easy to cook, turkey offers some good health benefits.
The dark meat on turkey is high in iron. And a cooked turkey breast provides 24 grams of protein, yet only 6 grams of fat – that’s just 10% of the recommended daily amount. Turkey is also a good low cholesterol alternative to red meats and even chicken, providing just 60 grams of cholesterol in a turkey breast compared to a chicken breast with 70 grams of cholesterol.
And there’s even a skincare bonus. Turkey helps your skin look great because it’s a good source of Vitamin B3, or niacin.
Vegetarian Alternatives for Turkey
Not everyone wants to eat turkey for their holiday meals. Maybe you’re a vegetarian, or maybe you or someone in your family just doesn’t enjoy the taste of turkey.
Offer a vegetarian Thanksgiving turkey alternative such as a big harvest vegetable stew, lentil loaf, or a black bean and squash soup instead.
Turkey for Two…or Not
It’s expected the demand for small turkeys will be higher this year as many Americans plan smaller Thanksgiving get-togethers.
If a small turkey is still too large for your holiday dinner, look for turkey breasts or a stuffed turkey roll at the supermarket or farmer’s market. 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.
Keep in mind that your Thanksgiving meat doesn’t need to be turkey. Consider trying Cornish game hen, quail or even a small ham as an option for smaller Thanksgiving meals.
Best Side Dishes for Turkey
What should you serve alongside your turkey to round out your holiday dinner? Depending on your tastes and dietary restrictions, you have many options to choose from.
Harvest vegetables like squash, pumpkin and brussels sprouts are good choices because they’re in season and easy to find, especially if you grew them in your own vegetable garden. Adding a steamed dark green vegetable like kale or swiss chard adds additional flavor and color to your Thanksgiving table, as do pickled beets.
Choose a gluten-free bread basket that includes bread or dinner rolls made with almond or coconut flour. Or bring out your tried-and-true heirloom family recipes and share your holiday memories with the younger generation.
Beyond Turkey Sandwiches: Creative Leftovers
Do you have memories of turkey sandwiches in your lunchbox for days after your big family Thanksgiving meal? Luckily, today it is easy to find creative turkey leftover recipes that are frugal, nutritious and delicious to boot.
Use your leftover Thanksgiving turkey to make light and easy meals such as
- Turkey wrap with cranberry sauce
- Salsa turkey soup
- Turkey bean casserole
- Turkey Shepherd’s Pie
- Turkey Tostadas
- Turkey Potato Salad
- Turkey Tetrazzini
Remember, cooked turkey also freezes well so you could also freeze slices to enjoy later.
Whether you plan a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner, a turkey-with-a-twist dinner, or a new take on Thanksgiving altogether, we’d love to hear about your favorite “Thanksgiving turkey” stories and your favorite side dishes. Share yours in the comments below.