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Talkin’ Turkey

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I love Thanksgiving. No pressure. No presents. Just food, football, family and friends. 

For 14 straight years I’ve shared Turkey Day trivia in my Thanksgiving week blog. So here it is, a few tidbits to make you a Thanksgiving dinner conversational expert.

Did you know that the humble turkey almost beat out the bald eagle as the official symbol of our nation?  Benjamin Franklin, who was enamored with the wild bird because it was a swift runner, had keen eyesight, and a regal stance (at least to ole’ Ben), led the push for the wild bird. Nosed out by the eagle, the wild turkey graces bottles of Kentucky bourbon instead of our dollar bill.

272 million turkeys are sold annually in the U.S. One sixth of those (45 million) are cooked and served on Thanksgiving Day.

90% of American families eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day. The bird makes an appearance just a few weeks later when 50% of families serve turkey at their Christmas table.

Although much is written about food served during the first Thanksgiving feast, we can also thank the Pilgrims for bringing their favorite beverage over on the Mayflower – beer.

A little Thanksgiving math – what is the circumference of a pumpkin divided by its diameter?  (Pi:) 

While it’s a favorite at today’s Thanksgiving dinner, there were no potatoes at the first Thanksgiving feast. The Pilgrims believed they were poisonous. 

The cranberry is one of the only 3 fruits entirely native to North American soil. The others are blueberries and concord grapes. By the way, a cranberry should bounce 12 inches before it’s ready to be harvested. 

Only male (Tom) turkeys gobble. The female (hen) makes a clucking sound. The famous gobble is actually the male’s mating call. Why do we call the males Tom?  After then President Thomas Jefferson, who nixed the turkey as the national bird.

The heaviest turkey ever raised weighed in at 86 lbs. – about the size of a German Shepherd. Somehow I just can’t see that gobbler doing police work.

Turkeys can drown if they look up when it’s raining, giving credence to their characterization as “bird brains.” They are also known to be high strung as U.S. Air Force pilots learned when entire fields of the wild birds died of heart attacks when the pilots flew overhead while trying to break the sound barrier. 

While the wild turkey can fly up to 55 miles per hour (for short distances), its domesticated cousin cannot – no doubt due to those big breasts and chunky thighs. 

But those chunky thighs do help domesticated turkeys run up to 25 miles per hour. Speaking of chunky thighs, the average American consumes a whopping 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day, the equivalent of gaining 1 ½ pounds if you don’t burn it off. 

The Detroit Lions first played a Thanksgiving game in 1934 against the Chicago Bears at University of Detroit stadium in front of 26,000 fans. Broadcast by NBC Radio to 94 stations across the country – thus began our Thanksgiving football history. 

Since then, the Lions have played a game every Thanksgiving (except between 1939-1944). In 1956, this annual game was televised for the first time. 

Why the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving? When team owner George Richards moved the team from Portsmouth (Portsmouth Spartans) to Detroit in 1934, he looked for a way to generate a fan base, proposing a Thanksgiving Day game to the NFL and NBC radio network. The game sold out and the radio audience was huge, so the tradition was born.

Want to bet on this Thursday’s game? While writing this blog, Detroit was a 1.5 point favorite over Chicago. I’ll bet you $5 Chicago wins straight up, a great bet for you if you believe the point spread. 

Email me at to take the bet. If I lose, I’ll mail you $5 cash. If you lose, I expect the same. Emails must be received before game time. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

– Reba Mcintyre

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