Food for Thought: Busting Turkey Day’s Biggest Myths

Everything you know about Thanksgiving is wrong


Bet you never knew that Lady Gaga's shtick is rooted in the 19th Century American Thanksgiving Day experience. 

As you prepare to sit for a festive meal with loved ones and (or) relatives, here’s a helping of fresh Turkey Day tidbits to bring to the table in lieu of that dish you were too lazy to whip up:

  • Historian Juan Cole claims that, back in the day, what we now call Thanksgiving was a time for cross-dressing and insulting authority -- kinda like Mardi Gras meets a Tea Party. “Thanksgiving in the nineteenth century in some parts of the country was a combination of Eddie Izzard (cross-dressing), Lady Gaga (wild costumes and breaking conventions), and Jon Stewart (mirthful insults directed at high political authority),” he writes. “Some historians suggest that the homey, nuclear-family Thanksgiving meal was a reaction against all this public rowdiness.”
  • We all know Thanksgiving has become the busiest travel week of the year. Wrong, writes Carl Bialik, numbers guru for The Wall Street Journal. “Airlines have a pretty good handle on travel demand around the holiday and can optimize the number of flights needed,” he blogs. Not to mention, the skies are more congested during the summer.
  • If you just want to brush up on Pilgrims trivia, take author Kenneth C. Davis’ quiz on HuffPo. Only about half of the 102 people who came over on the Mayflower were certifiable pilgrims, he notes. The others called themselves “strangers.”
  • Slashfood blogger Hanna Raskin claims that if you really want to set a historic Turkey Day table, replace the bird with shellfish. “Lobsters, clams and mussels were almost certainly served at the 1621 feast that's come to be commemorated as the First Thanksgiving,” she writes. Eventually, oyster soup became the go-to dish. Too bad “the Chesapeake oyster industry, which once produced the vast majority of the nation's oysters, was so badly decimated by disease, pollution and reef destruction that, by 2003, its harvest stood at a mere 1 percent of its 1903 take.”
  • Guess which two pooches likely attended the first Thanksgiving? That’s right, English Springer Spaniel and a Mastiff. “The dogs were involved in the first explorations of discovery on Cape Cod during the first winter ashore,” according to an account in a 17th century journal, USA Today reports. Looks like those two breeds earned their table scraps today. 
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