Why we really eat turkey on Thanksgiving

History
Master Sgt. John Willard lowers a turkey into a turkey fryer at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Nov. 16, 2012.
Master Sgt. John Willard lowers a turkey into a turkey fryer at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Nov. 16, 2012. (U.S. Air Force/Roland Balik)

Editor's Note: This article written by Jeff Cattel was originally published on Greatist, a digital publication committed to happy and healthy lifestyle choices.

In between making hand turkeys and pilgrim hats, we learned that the colonists celebrated their bountiful harvest in the New World in 1621 by inviting Native Americans for a feast complete with turkey and all of the usual fixings: stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy. But it turns out those were tall tales we learned in elementary school. The pilgrims and natives probably stuffed themselves silly with venison, not turkey. So much for keeping that tradition alive.


There were a few forces at work to make turkey the meat du jour for Thanksgiving. Practically speaking, chicken and cows were more valuable to keep around for their eggs and milk than turkeys, which were farmed and hunted for their meat. Plus, one full-grown turkey was large enough to feed a family.

Logical reasons aside, Sarah Josepha Hale (aka “the godmother of Thanksgiving") deserves much of the credit for making turkey the centerpiece of every Thanksgiving meal.

Hale, who first gained notoriety as the author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," edited “Godey's Lady Book," a popular colonial era women's magazine, and used her power to get Thanksgiving recognized as a national holiday. Her novel “Northwood" even devoted an entire chapter to the fall holiday. I

n the book, Hale describes a Thanksgiving feast where the roast turkey is the belle of the ball with savory stuffing and gravy. Hale also included recipes for a turkey roast and pumpkin pie in Godey's, spreading these new traditions to the masses, which they quickly gobbled up.

Now when one of your relatives starts talking about the first Thanksgiving during this year's celebrations, you can drop some knowledge and help everyone steer clear of those dicier topics.

This article, “So, Why Do We Eat Turkey on Thanksgiving?" originally appeared on Greatist.

More articles from Greatist:

Nothing says joint force battle management like a ride-sharing app. (Task & Purpose photo illustration)

The Air Force's top general says one of the designers of the ride-sharing app Uber is helping the branch build a new data-sharing network that the Air Force hopes will help service branches work together to detect and destroy targets.

The network, which the Air Force is calling the advanced battle management system (ABMS), would function a bit like the artificial intelligence construct Cortana from Halo, who identifies enemy ships and the nearest assets to destroy them at machine speed, so all the fleshy humans need to do is give a nod of approval before resuming their pipe-smoking.

Read More
The newly painted F-15 Eagle flagship, dubbed the Heritage Jet, was painted to honor 1st Lt. David Kingsley, the namesake for Kingsley Field, and his ultimate sacrifice. (U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar)

An F-15C Eagle is sporting a badass World War II-era paint job in honor of a fallen bomber pilot who gave everything to ensure his men survived a deadly battle.

Read More
The wreckage of a U.S. Air Force E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft is seen after a crash in Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, Afghanistan on January 27, 2020 (Reuters photo)

A U.S. E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed on Monday on Afghanistan, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has confirmed.

Read More
In this June 7, 2009 file photo Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) points to a player behind him after making a basket in the closing seconds against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Los Angeles. Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. He was 41. (Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill)

Beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday. Two days earlier, Army Spc. Antonio I. Moore was killed during a vehicle rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations in Syria.

Which one more deserves your grief and mourning? According to Maj. Gen. John R. Evans, commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, you only have enough energy for one.

Read More
Jessica Purcell of St. Petersburg, a captain in the Army Reserve, was pregnant with son Jameson when she was told at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic not to worry about lumps under her arm. She now is diagnosed stage 4 cancer. Jameson is 10 months old. (Tampa Bay Times/Scott Keeler via Tribune News Service)

Jessica Purcell, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, was pregnant with her first child when she noticed a swollen lymph node in her left underarm.

Health-care providers at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic told her it was likely an infection or something related to pregnancy hormones. The following year they determined the issue had resolved itself.

It hadn't. A doctor off base found a large mass in her underarm and gave her a shocking diagnosis: stage 2 breast cancer.

Purcell was pregnant again. Her daughter had just turned 1. She was 35. And she had no right to sue for malpractice.

A 1950 Supreme Court ruling known as the Feres doctrine prohibits military members like Purcell from filing a lawsuit against the federal government for any injuries suffered while on active duty. That includes injury in combat, but also rape and medical malpractice, such as missing a cancer diagnosis.

Thanks in part to Tampa lawyer Natalie Khawam, a provision in this year's national defense budget allows those in active duty to file medical malpractice claims against the government for the first time since the Feres case.

With the Department of Defense overseeing the new claims process, the question now is how fairly and timely complaints will be judged. And whether, in the long run, this new move will help growing efforts to overturn the ruling and allow active duty members to sue like everyone else.

Read More