Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving? The history of the holiday tradition – San Bernardino Sun
It’s November and you’re probably craving some turkey.
Poultry has long been the centerpiece of the traditional American Thanksgiving meal, but contrary to tradition, turkey may not have been a part of the 1621 feast at the Plymouth Colony.
Descriptions of the three-day feast shared by pilgrims and Native Americans from the local Wampanoag tribe include wild poultry, deer, and local vegetables, but there was no specific mention of turkey.
For centuries, different cultures and religions have celebrated their harvests with a Thanksgiving feast, but the pilgrim’s version of the feast did not appear until the 1800s. It was during this time that the roast turkey became known. is rooted in the traditional American Thanksgiving meal.
In 1827, author Sarah Josepha Hale devoted a chapter to her novel “Northwood; a Tale of New England ”to describe his ideal version of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. In the book, Hale writes “the roast turkey took precedence on this occasion, being placed at the head of the table; well has it become his stately station.
The traditional image of a feast, with stuffed turkey and many other dishes, took root in 1889 when famous American author Jane G. Austin wrote a fictional account of the 1621 feast in her book “Standish of Standish : A Story of The Pilgrims “. “
Austin’s description did not mention the malnutrition and deaths at Plymouth Colony that winter, but his account was popular and it became the basis for other writings, plays and public events, and ultimately, program. school.
In 1863, a proclamation by Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a “national day of thanksgiving and praise to our gracious Father who dwells in heaven,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. In the second half of the 1800s, Thanksgiving was often referred to as “turkey day” and in 1885 Congress made the celebration a paid holiday for all working Americans.
Turkey was the favorite meat of Europeans long before the Plymouth Festival, and local wild turkeys were an abundant source of food for Native Americans and New England settlers.
The early Californian settlers did not have an optional wild turkey for their Thanksgiving feasts, as the birds were not native to the area. Wild turkeys were first introduced to California in 1877, by private ranchers on Santa Cruz Island for game hunting.
Unlike their domesticated brethren, wild turkeys are very good flyers over short distances and are a good sport for hunters. Also, most turkey fans don’t know that a male turkey is a tom or a gobbler, a young male is a jake, females are hens, a young female is a jenny, and babies are a turkey or a chick.
Turkey production in California increased steadily until the late 1800s, but it lagged behind the eastern and midwestern states. In 1869, California production records indicated that 157,228 turkeys were raised on poultry ranches, compared to 1,459,069 chickens. The total human population of the state at this time was approximately 550,000 people.
Today, the large-breasted white turkey is the most widely used breed of commercially raised turkeys. They cannot fly and weigh up to 40 pounds.
In large cities, many residents of the late 1800s ate Thanksgiving dinner at a hotel restaurant. In 1876, residents of San Bernardino could get a full Thanksgiving dinner that included oyster-stuffed turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin, lemon, or cream pie, for 25 cents at the hotel. Arcade.
The price of a Thanksgiving turkey dinner at a restaurant remained surprisingly stable for many years into the late 1800s.
In November 1894, you could still get a turkey dinner with oyster vinaigrette, cranberry sauce, and English plum pudding, for 25 cents at People’s restaurant in Los Angeles. By 1910, the price of a restaurant turkey dinner with the traditional sides had risen to around 50 cents.
In 1908, the California Fish and Game Commission released turkeys to the San Bernardino Mountains for game farming. These transplants have been largely unsuccessful for the game, but in other parts of the state, wild turkey transplants are free.
During World War I and World War II, meat was sometimes scarce, and turkeys were among the most expensive and difficult to obtain.
In 1919, a year after World War I, Patton State Hospital hosted the largest Thanksgiving meal in California, with 2,500 attendees (approximately 2,175 patients and 300 staff). Even a year after the war, the turkey was too expensive and the huge crowd was served ham.
Poultry giant Foster Farms began operating in Modesto in 1939. At that time, the retail price of turkey in California was around 20 to 25 cents a pound. By 1960, the retail price of turkeys had increased from 33 cents to 39 cents per pound.
Turkey had become the undisputed main feature of the American Thanksgiving dinner, and in 1947 the National Federation of Turkey began the tradition of presenting a live turkey to the President of the United States.
On November 19, 1963, John F. Kennedy granted a turkey the first presidential pardon, sparing its life and sending the 55-pound bird home in Sunnymead, California. The practice was continued by subsequent presidents, and in 1989 President George HW Bush made the pardoning ceremony an official tradition.
In 2021, turkey costs could increase and it is possible that there are supply chain issues that could make it difficult to find a bird.
Regardless of pricing or supply issues, the 400-year tradition of a Thanksgiving turkey dinner will continue.
For Thanksgiving this year, analysts predict that 88% of Americans will eat turkey and that they will consume around 46 million birds at a cost of more than $ 900 million.
Mark Landis is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at [email protected]