Thanksgiving Thursday, 25 November 2021 Thanksgiving is a national holiday observed in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia on various dates. It began as a day of thanksgiving and sacrifice for the blessings of the harvest and the previous year. Festival holidays with similar names can be found in Germany and Japan. Thanksgiving is observed on the second Monday of October in Canada, the fourth Thursday of November in the United States, and at other times of the year. Despite its historical roots in religious and cultural customs, Thanksgiving has long been observed as a secular holiday as well.
Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States, and Thanksgiving 2021 will take place on Thursday, November 25. The Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag celebrated a fall harvest feast in 1621, which is regarded as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.
Individual colonies and states have observed days of thanksgiving for more than two centuries. President Abraham Lincoln did not designate a national Thanksgiving Day until 1863, in the thick of the Civil War.
In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers: a mix of religious separatists looking for a new home where they might freely practice their beliefs and others drawn by the promise of affluence and property ownership in the “New World.” They anchored near the tip of Cape Cod, well north of their intended objective at the entrance of the Hudson River, after a perilous and miserable 66-day journey. One month later, the Mayflower sailed across Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now called, set about founding a colony at Plymouth.
During that first harsh winter, the majority of the colonists stayed on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy, and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew survived to witness the first spring in New England. In March, the last of the settlers arrived on shore, where they were hailed in English by a member of the Abenaki tribe.
Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a Pawtuxet tribe member who had been captured and sold into slavery by an English sea captain before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploration journey. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, who were malnourished and sick, how to raise maize, draw syrup from maple trees, catch fish in rivers, and avoid toxic plants. He also assisted the settlers in forming an alliance with the Wampanoag, a nearby tribe, which would last for more than 50 years and, sadly, remains one of the few examples of concord between European colonists and Native Americans.
After the Pilgrims’ first successful grain harvest in November 1621, Governor William Bradford arranged a celebratory feast and invited a handful of the fledgling colony’s Native American friends, including Wampanoag chief Massasoit. The feast, often known as America’s “first Thanksgiving”—though the Pilgrims may not have used the word at the time—lasted three days. While there is no record of the specific menu for the first Thanksgiving, much of what we know about what happened comes from Pilgrim historian Edward Winslow.
Allow science to assist you in roasting a better turkey this Thanksgiving.
I have a kitchen confession: I don’t make turkey for Thanksgiving.
It’s not for dietary reasons, though I do attempt to reduce my meat consumption. It’s really a case of heartbreaking disappointment. My family and I decided years ago that we would no longer serve Thanksgiving turkey since it was always dry and flavorless.
What’s the point of getting up really early and spending hours working and fretting in the kitchen if the final result is a bland bird?
I don’t need any holiday heartbreak.
And I’m not alone in my dislike for turkey. “It is one of the most uninteresting and unflavorful chunks of beef,” says Nik Sharma, a culinary author. “And I believe that’s why everyone has trouble with this bird every year.”
Bad turkeys, on the other hand, are an issue that science can genuinely fix. That’s why, this year, I’ve decided to revisit the turkey tradition, this time with the help of two cookbook authors known for demystifying the science behind good food: Sharma, a trained molecular biologist and author of The Flavor Equation, and Kenji Lopez-Alt, a New York Times food columnist and author of The Food Lab.
The basic issue with turkey, as Lopez-Alt notes, is based in its anatomy. You have two types of meat that must reach distinct internal temperatures: the white breast flesh, which must reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and the black leg and thigh meat, which must reach at least 165 degrees — ideally, 175 degrees. However, by the time the legs reach the proper temperature, your breast is overcooked.
When you consider how turkeys use their bodies while living, it all makes sense. The white meat is composed of fast-twitch muscles, which are rarely used but are stimulated in short bursts. “These muscles are often low in connective tissue, low in fat, and extremely powerful. This means that they are relatively easy to overcook “Lopez-Alt explains.
Meanwhile, the dark flesh is made up of slow-twitch muscle fibers that the turkey constantly uses when walking or standing, so it has a lot of connective tissue — which means it needs to be cooked at a higher temperature to break down.
So, how can we address this issue, which is entrenched in avian biology? Science comes to the rescue! Continue reading about thanksgiving day
Learn about the geometry of your meat and get rid of your roasting pan.
“It would be tough to build a worse instrument for cooking a turkey than a roasting pan because you’re exacerbating an already-existing problem,” Lopez-Alt says.
The high sides of a roasting pan protect the bottom of the turkey — the legs and thighs — from heat, so they take longer to cook to temperature. Meanwhile, the breast protrudes above the man’s head, absorbing the majority of the heat and drying out more.
So, for roasting full birds, one simple solution is to use a different type of pan — a low-rimmed baking sheet with the bird balanced on a v-shaped rack. Place the baking sheet on a preheated pizza stone for an even better result. The heat will radiate up through the bottom of the sheet tray, speeding up the cooking of the thighs and drumsticks.
Bring out the poultry shears to truly fix this quandary.
Sharma and Lopez-Alt both think that the easiest solution to solve the white flesh/dark meat temperature problem is to forego serving a whole turkey and instead slice it up. While it may appear sacrilegious to those who cling to Norman Rockwell’s vision of a Thanksgiving feast, it is the secret to a better bird.
There are several approaches to this: If you have the necessary expertise and tools, you can chop your turkey yourself using a process known as spatchcocking, which involves removing the backbone so the bird lays flat.Happy thanksgiving 2021