In the late summer of 2004, days before I was to move to Lianyungang, China, to teach English for a year, I spoke to an acquaintance who had spent a few years in the country.
"Holidays are hard," he said. "But oddly, not so much Christmas. Christmas isn’t that bad. It’s Thanksgiving that’s hard."
At the time, surviving the holidays was the least of my worries. I was moving to a country where I didn’t speak the language, understand the culture, or know the history, in order to do a job that I had never done and didn’t know how to do. And not only that, I was going to a city—Lianyungang—that I hadn’t even heard of, and could find no information about online.
Other than that, I was completely prepared.
Read more. [Image: Sheng Li/Reuters]
Today, deep-fried food is almost as American as apple pie—which, incidentally, can be dunked into a vat of oil and emerge with a greasy, crunchy coating, along with almost any kind of food. So it’s no surprise that, for some, deep-frying a turkey is a Thanksgiving tradition.
That tradition can be a risky one. Each year, deep-frying large birds backfires for dozens of Americans.
For the last seven years, Texas has led the country in most grease- and cooking-related insurance claims on Thanksgiving Day, with 38,according to insurance company State Farm. The runner-up is Illinois, with 27 reports. Pennsylvania and Ohio are tied for third with 23, while New York trails them with 22 claims. South Carolina and Georgia tallied 16 claims each.
The halcyon days have passed. Stock photos remind us of a darker time, when the best thing to do with your turkey was to throw on a set of pearls and get glamorous.
It is an extra big Thanksgiving for turkeys this year.
Mark it down: in 2013, the average weight for American produced turkey crossed 30 pounds for the first time. At least based on the January to October numbers for this year, we’re talking about an average weight of 30.47 pounds.
That’s a remarkable increase in average size. Go back a little further, like I did in 2008, and you see that we didn’t hit 15 pounds until the 1930s. In 1960, the average weight of a turkey was just 16.83 pounds. Even in 1985, it was only 20 pounds, and we didn’t hit 25 pounds until 1999.
And we owe it all to artificial insemination.
Read more. [Image: USDA]
In a few days, many college freshmen will be going home for the first time since August. They’ll retreat to what is comfortable – spending time with family, old friends, and for some, a high-school sweetheart. Thanksgiving will also be a time for big questions, particularly for those freshmen still in high-school relationships. Did they take advantage of their first three months in college, or did they lose out by spending too much time on Skype? During their first trip home, freshmen have to decide whether they stick it out with their first love, or succumb to what is known as the “Turkey Drop”— the phenomenon of high-school couples breaking up when they come home for their first Thanksgiving.
Read more. [Image: kidoki/flickr]
You know what’s less awesome, though? The food. Sure, you can do a lot of things to space food to make it less space-food-y: You can spice it and sweeten it and try to make it simulate, as much as possible, its Earth-bound counterparts. Ultimately, though, the foodstuffs you’re consuming are still desiccated/rehydrated/irradiated/thermostabilized. Which is all compounded by the fact that your taste buds are sort of shot by the whole microgravity thing, anyway.
But it’s Thanksgiving! And we celebrate Thanksgiving with our feasting! So how will the six people currently living on the International Space Station, among them two Americans, give their thanks—not so much for the food as with it? Here, per NASA, are the dishes that will grace the only Thanksgiving table whose crazy tablescape is space.
Read more. [Image: NASA]
This is going to be the best Thanksgiving ever. Prepare your mind and body accordingly.
Because storms, apparently, do not bother to celebrate Thanksgiving, there is one raging toward the East Coast right now. It will bring, among other assorted holiday treats: “ice to slick the roads, heavy rain to foul up the airports, and wind so ferocious it could ground Spider-Man in the Macy’s parade.”
The storm will not only “foul up” the airports, though; it will also lead to delayed (ugh!) and cancelled (gah!) flights—all this over, yep, the biggest travel days of the year. Which is both frustrating and, for the many who might have their holiday plans compromised by the weather, extremely sad.
Read more. [Image: NASA/NOAA]
(This isn’t the photo)
OK. I know I should just show you the picture because I promised it right there in the headline, but we should cover a few bases first.
Number one, vegetarians—or those easily grossed out—should not scroll down. You’ve been warned.
Two, in our times, food is often made into spectacle. Think: Iron Chef, hot dog eating contests, the world’s largest paella, penis pasta, molecular gastronomy, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, futurist dinner parties, turkey testicle festivals, sundry foods fried at fairs, gingerbread houses, and yes, the turducken, a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey.
Food is sustenance and nutrition, but it is also art and entertainment and provocation and worship (see: bacon, Thanksgiving).
So, if the people and activities and foods of the past seem impossibly strange to you… Look around.