During this traditional time of giving thanks with friends and family, we’d like to say thank you to all of our customers for being part of the Direct Energy family.
Thanksgiving has evolved into a uniquely American holiday almost exclusively because of the turkey. Nearly 88% of Americans will eat turkey this Thanksgiving. One Thanksgiving tradition heard each year is that Benjamin Franklin complained in a letter to his daughter Sally that the bald eagle was a bird of “bad moral character.” He went on with his famous tongue-in-cheek lament, “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country! The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.”
Indeed, the turkey was one of the first exports from the New World in 1498 to make it big in Europe. By the 1540s, turkeys were well established on English farms, becoming part of the Christmas feast by the Elizabethan Age in the 1570s. In fact, the Pilgrim colonists in the 1600s actually imported Black turkeys from England after the colony was established at Plymouth Bay.
Yet, it took the turkey a long, long time to ascend to the respected entree-spot of the national feast. The problem is that mature male Black turkeys grow quite large — about 18 – 25 pounds. That’s a BIG and inconveniently sized bird. Consider that even with refrigeration in the early 20th century, buying and cooking a turkey typically required a larger icebox and oven than what the average consumer owned. Market research in the 1930s showed that families wanted smaller turkeys weighing 8 – 15 pounds with more white meat. So, in 1934, the USDA Agricultural Research Center began breeding a new turkey — the Broad Breasted White. It now dominates the turkey meat market.
Tom Turkey Goes to Washington
Even though the new breed fit in the average American’s fridge and oven, turkey didn’t become the holiday meal icon until after World War II. The poultry industry aggressively marketed the bird as a symbol of American abundance. Part of that marketing plan was to present a turkey to the President at the White House. President Harry S. Truman received the first one from from the Poultry and Egg National Board on November 16, 1949.
Presidential Turkey pardons are a relatively new tradition. A big tom turkey was the one to be sent back to the farm by President Kennedy on November 18, 1963. The LA Times spun the story as a “Presidential Pardon.” In 1987, Ronald Reagan was the first president to officially “Pardon” a turkey to a petting zoo. George H.W. Bush officially made the annual pardoning of the bird part of the poultry industry presentation in 1989, and it’s been a tradition ever since.
Cooking the Bird
Of course, every family has its own traditional way of preparing their turkey dinner. Some are recipies that seem to have been handed down from before the Pilgrims left England. Still, it’s always fun to experiment. Lynne Rossetto Kasper, of public radio’s “The Splendid Table,” hosts an annual Turkey Confidential show which is filled with drool-worthy ideas for cooking turkey, potatoes, gravy, filling, pies, vegan dishes, sauces, and so much more. She also counsels callers about what to do when things go terribly wrong.
So as we pause in thankful reflection this holiday, may you enjoy a fantastic feast with your friends and family courtesy of our “other” national bird and may you have a prosperous year to come. Happy Thanksgiving!