What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Thanksgiving? For me, it’s food. Oh, sure, I also ponder family and things I’m grateful for but soon my mouth starts to water and I’m back to contemplating the food.
If you’re like me, even though the holiday is weeks away, you’re already anticipating the traditional turkey dinner featuring cranberries, sweet potatoes, green- bean casserole, rolls, gravy and corn, topped off with pumpkin pie or maybe cherry or apple.
Thanksgiving has always meant a feast – typically a super-sized one.
Even before the Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621, people gathered to share food and to express gratitude for their blessings. I don’t know when turkey became the traditional main course. Perhaps it happened around the time President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1863. He established a date for the holiday -- the last Thursday in November. Or perhaps turkey became the holiday’s unofficial meat when President Franklin Roosevelt formalized Thanksgiving on the FOURTH Thursday in November.
Ever wonder how much food goes into that feast and where – besides your garden -- the ingredients for this delicious meal probably originate?
I’ve found some interesting statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.
1. In 2007, American farmers raised 272 million turkeys, many expressly for the purpose of Thanksgiving dining.
2. Again according to the 2007 census data, Minnesota raises the most turkeys, followed by North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia, Missouri and California.
3. Surprisingly enough, those millions of turkeys didn’t meet America’s demands. Americans spent $9.5 million on importing live turkeys. The majority of those turkeys came from Canada.
4. In 2007, in cranberry states such as Wisconsin, agricultural workers harvested an estimated 690 million pounds of cranberries.
5. Other states such as North Carolina, California, Mississippi and Louisiana contributed 1.6 billion pounds of sweet potatoes.
6. The breads, rolls, pie crusts and Thanksgiving delights were created from the 1.8 billion bushels of wheat produced by states such as Kansas and North Dakota.
7. If you’re making or devouring the traditional green-bean casserole, it might interest you to know that about 841,280 tons of green beans are produced yearly by states including Wisconsin.
8. What about the pumpkin pie? Where do all those pumpkins come from? The 1 billion pounds of pumpkins were grown in patches mainly in Illinois, California, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
9. The 294 million pounds of tart pie-making cherries originate in such states as Michigan.
10. In 2005 the average American ate 13.1 pounds of turkeys. Whether it was all at the Thanksgiving meal wasn’t specified, but we certainly hope not. But then, if they were referring to my nephew Drew, I can tell you he ate at least a third of the 13.1 pounds. That guy l-o-v-e-s his turkey slices.
11. Americans consumed an average of 4.5 pounds of sweet potato every year. Again, back to Drew. He didn’t make this average -- at least at Thanksgiving probably because of all those helpings of turkey.
12. There are 114. 4 million households in the United States. God willing, we’ll all find a place to gather together for the holiday.