Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Post

Today is Thanksgiving, which is an important holiday in the American calendar. Although Thanksgiving is said to commemorate the feast that the Native American tribes had with the early puritan colonists, the actual holiday itself was not established until 1863 by president Lincoln during his Thanksgiving proclamation. Up until then, many states scheduled their own "thanksgiving" events as an irregular observance, often during years when there was an especially bountiful harvest.

A magazine editor by the name of Sarah Josepha Hale wrote a series of letters to president Lincoln urging him to declare Thanksgiving as an official holiday. America was being torn apart by civil war and Mrs. Hale felt that nationalizing the custom of thanksgiving would help restore a feeling of unity throughout the US. The holiday was vaguely based on the Puritan harvest festival at Plymouth Plantation during 1621, which lasted three days from late September to early October. However, the idea behind Thanksgiving as set forth by Mrs. Hale was more of a celebration of "home and hearth" before the dead of winter rather than a specific historical event.

Since the Thanksgiving proclamation, Thanksgiving has been a national holiday that is celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Although the Puritans were more than likely eating venison at Plymouth, turkey is traditionally eaten on the holiday because West Point students were customarily served turkey during Thanksgiving, which had generally been a northeastern culinary tradition until then. Because of this, many West Point troops had been exposed to turkey, which helped cement its place on the Thanksgiving dinner table. After the end of World War II the famous Norman Rockwell image of a roast turkey serving as the symbol for "Freedom From Want" made turkey the national icon for Thanksgiving.

I myself had an enjoyable Thanksgiving today. The turkey was roasted upside-down to make sure that the breast area does not become desiccated during the cooking process. The dog, myself, and everybody else had plenty to eat and everybody seemed to have a good time. My favorite cut of a turkey is the leg or "drumstick" as I prefer dark meat to white meat when it comes to poultry flesh. The "white meat" on birds consists of fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are used for short bursts of intense activity, while the "dark meat" contains slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are mainly meant for sustained physical activity. Slow-twitch muscle fibers contain more myoglobin, which is a protein in muscle tissue that gives it a darker color.

I wish everybody an enjoyable Thanksgiving and I hope that they make sure they get enough to eat and that the company of their dinner guests is not too trying on their patience. The best part of Thanksgiving is often the leftover food the day after, as it is just as good if not better than the day before. Finally, one must not underestimate the remaining turkey skeleton, which is highly valuable for making soup stock out of after the last of the meat has been picked off by ravenous humans.

Happy feasting everybody!

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